To visit Silvana Castillo is a treat. She is warm, welcoming, and to my delight has prepared some fresh tortillas for my visit. You see, Silvana is originally from Guatemala. I have a soft spot for people from away, as I too was not born in Nova Scotia.
I met Silvana a few years ago when I was asked to create a series of short videos on food security. Silvana is mostly known for saving seeds. For me she is also a reference when it comes to wild edibles. Her farm, La Finquita, little farm in Spanish, is a dream come true. Located in Wallace on a hundred acres of land, Silvana and her partner have planted trees that are now producing fruits, cared for gardens wild and tamed, built a greenhouse that sustain them and others with fresh greens all winter long. A little piece of paradise if you ask me.
I am not sure how Silvana’s passion for seeds started but she always loved them. Twenty years ago a relative brought her a pack of rocket seeds from England (better known as arugula). “I’ve never purchased them since” she said, “The first years, when I brought my arugula crop to the farmer’s market, nobody was interested. They didn’t like the taste”. Funny how it goes. Tastes and cravings change. The peppery green now topping wood fired pizzas in trendy restaurants.
The beauty of collecting and saving seeds is, for one thing, to ensure your next year crop. To become self sufficient. There is some know how in doing it. But what satisfaction to collect and grow your own seeds. In the early years of gardening on the farm a woman handed Silvana the seeds of a rare variety of golden tomato. Year after year Silvana saved the seeds of the better looking ones until one day she heard of someone looking for that very specific type of tomato. Nobody seemed to have it anymore.
When you visit Silvana’s website you will see that she sells several types of seeds from wild edibles. Yes, you will see dandelion there. I know, I was surprised too. The thing is, she explains, that a lot of our foods have lost nutrients. My thought was to blame mono cultures and depleted soils, but she explained that since we became farmers (10 000 years or so ago) our plant selection was driven by taste, favoring sweetness over bitterness. Apparently, in the process we also lost nutrients.
To find out more about seeds, gardening, and seed saving, to meet Silvana and other seed keepers, do come to one or several of the upcoming Seedy Saturdays. There, you will find a beautiful community of growers, and find what you need to get those little seedlings started.
Here are some Seedy Saturdays near you :
February 29th in Truro from 10am to 2pm at the Douglas Street Recreation Centre
March 7th in Amherst 1-4pm at the Cumberland County Museum (150 Church Street)
March 21st in Upper Stewiacke 10am to 2pm at the Upper Stewiacke Fire Hall