Seeds: All Your Food Starts Here

When do we ever stop to consider the seeds that generated our food? When we go grocery shopping or cook, how many times we ask who has produced, selected or purchased the seeds that have been used to give us delicious fruit and vegetables, but also bread, pasta, and even our meat, seeing as farmed animals lead a plant-based diet?

Let’s face it: we hardly ever think about it. Even the most aware, and curious of us, those who keep an eye on brand and brand practices, often do not take this element into account.

 Even those who dedicate themselves with care and passion to their home garden, often do not know where their own seeds come from or how they were chosen and acquired. Many people often buy them in the form of seedlings that are then placed in the garden soil.  Very few know how to get new seeds from year to year without buying new ones, but gathering them from their own plants.

Slow Food has always worked on the theme of Seeds. In the  #foodforchange Seeds area at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, we offer food for thought and tasting opportunities, to share origin story of everything we eat.

The Forums to get to the Root of Our Food

Ph. Oliver Migliore & Marco del Comune

There is no better way to understand seeds, how to choose or handle them than to grow your own vegetable garden. Slow Food devotes two forums to this topic: School Gardens, which begins with the experience of school gardens initiated by Alice Waters at Berkeley to describe similar initiatives all over the world; and Cultivating Cities, which gives a new point of view on urban spaces, the environment, the landscape, and social relations. City centers and the suburbs can be great places of plant production through proper design and the creations of more complex food systems.

But how to select and increase the seeds that give rise to our gardens? We discover it in The Art and Practice of Saving Seeds a forum dedicated to describing the knowledge of the communities related to the selection and breeding of seeds. We also take this opportunity to give you more details on the Seminiamo La Biodiversità project, promoted by Eataly together with Slow Food, the University of Palermo and the Arcoiris seed company, which brings together producers (seeds and related vegetables), distribution, and catering online, stitching together the whole supply chain, from seed to plate. In Banks, Libraries and Granaries, however, we share the many experiences of the community seed banks, where seeds are renewed every year and promote continuous exchange among farmers. Finally, to learn more about how the seeds of antiquity are still alive and productive, we recommend Historical Gardens, Living Gardens.This event introduces you to fragments of a glorious past, ancient trees, but still productive and witnesses of biodiversity that have few equals in the world. These include the garden cultivated by Russian memorialist and agronomist Bolotov and the banana garden (Slow Food Presidium) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, which is home to over 300 varieties.

 

Ph. Oliver Migliore & Marco del Comune

Comparing seeds, we will talk about Biodiversity as a Response to Climate Change, to show you how a rich and diversified farming system that is more prepared to face climate change than a monoculture-based system.  Resisting GMOs will also share different community experiences saying no to an agricultural system founded on monocultures and in GMOs has its own extreme point (This forum takes place in Sala Azzurra, to allow the largest possible participation ). Also on the topic of seed biodiversity, the forum The Slow Mays Network, which compares the maize that dominates the market, commercial hybrids (often genetically modified) with the innumerable local varieties, from the yellow, black, white, purple, panicle more or less long, slimmer or more stocky.

And yet, Nut and Oil Seeds leads us to get to know a large family, spread all over the world, including almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, but also sunflower seeds, flax, sesame, and pumpkin.  While Where do Spices Come From? is inspired by an article written by Amitav Ghosh, who complained that even in recent years the interest to know where ingredients has grown the focus on the origin of the ingredients, there is a category that still has to earn the attention of the “localvores”, despite making an essential contribution to the taste of food: spices.

Ph. Oliver Migliore & Marco del Comune

Finally The Future is Under your Feet bring up the discussion of soils, an argument closely related to seeds, because if we plant them in unhealthy, non-fertile soil, they will not grow.. Every year worldwide we lose 24 billion tons of fertile land and more than 60% of the land that has emerged is degraded to some level. Impoverished and polluted soil cannot produce healthy food and in the long run, it is bound to become unproductive. We discuss how to respect and preserve the fertility of the soil.

Taste Workshops to try the goodness of seeds

If you attend even only one of the forums listed above you will gain a lot more awareness and knowledge, but if you participate in one of the Taste Workshops below, your palate will also profit. We’ve already mentioned some of the Taste Workshops addressing rice, corn and garden maintenance. Today we look at all the other events Terra Madre Salone del Gusto has in store for you.

  • through the many colors and flavors of vegetables. There are many varieties that we can discover and taste: from the colorful peppers of the north and south of Italy, put to the test in tasty recipes such as stuffed peppers,  tomatoes make up an excellent pizza sauce, but also an intriguing Bloody Mary, Saturday the 22 and Monday the 24. Not to forget are the “paradise” vegetables, grown and cooked by one of our favorite places, the Osteria della Villetta of Palazzolo sull’Oglio or Specialty Seed Recipes, which gives us a taste of almost lost flavors. Then there will be a look at biodynamic production and  a meeting with the Biodynamic growers of Lucca, 12 farms dedicated to the production of wine and extra virgin olive oil, and one specialized in fruit and vegetable production

    Ph. Oliver Migliore & Marco del Comune

  • considering fresh and dried fruit, we offer you some sweet experiences, such as Time for Italian Apples to taste the goodness of ancient apple varieties thanks to the inspiration of the master pastry chef Marco Sforza, Colors of Sicily, where we sample Slow Food Presidia peaches  and  strawberries from Sciacca and Ribera, and even some Almond Sweets: from Asia to the Mediterranean or Uganda’s Diversity of Bananas and Millet, dedicated to two Slow Food Presidia and their uses in the kitchen, demonstrated by the Slow Food Alliance chefs.
  • the world of legumes, which by is present both in the #foodforchange Seeds and Slow Meat space, as a vegetarian alternative to meat consumption. With China: The Kingdom of  Mapo-Tofu we learn to make a spicy and delicious Tofu recipe, from the city of Chengdu; in Egyptian Fava Beans, with archaeologists’ guidance,  we explore the transformations of Egyptian cuisine from 2,000 years ago.
  • finally, cereals, those that give rise to Felitto Fusilli – durum wheat flour and locally produced eggs, a little salt, a glass of water, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, always produced locally – and Palestinian Tahini, white or black, depending on the variety of sesame used to make it, and finally a look at the various forms of couscous.

In short, Salone del Gusto offers a dense and rich menu. Browse more events by searching the theme Seeds.

Article by Silvia Ceriani, s.ceriani@slowfood.it

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