by Fran Vuolo
On the seventh session of ediculture we entered the ‘North’ or 7th point on the edible culture wheel of the year that the ediculture course is following. This session focused on working with others to build a sense of community. This is the final session based at Global Gardens.
We started the session sat around the firepit where we were encouraged to share some gratitude and check in with our feelings. We learnt how to respect each other’s feelings and be considerate when discussing personal emotions. Then the rain started falling, where we moved inside the hut at Global Gardens.
It was rather fitting for this session, as the point of the wheel we explored focused on Winter which is a period of
rest. Stephen discussed that in the past, those who worked on the land would focus on indoor tasks after the necessary outdoor tasks were completed. This ranged from mending clothing and equipment to caring for families and animals. The focus being on communal activities where knowledge and skills can be shared. This set the theme for the day ahead.
Good communication skills are an essential foundation of cultivating connection, which is an aim of the ediculture ethos. After our discussion, we were split into 3 smaller groups where we all were introduced to some skills that are essential for any growing project. These skills were seed saving, fruit tree care and pricking out tomatoes. The respective groups moved outside to learn their skills as the rain had stopped.
After these demonstrations, a member from each group joined a few people from the other groups to teach their skill and learn from each other.
Poppy led the Seed Saving session in the hut.
When seed saving, the best conditions is when the weather is hot, and it is a dry day. To prepare for saving seeds, the plants need to have ‘gone to seed’ e.g have produced seeds. The next step is to collect your plants and dry them out in an indoor location such as a green-house or polytunnel. The drying period could take a couple of weeks-months to fully dry out.
When you are ready to save the seeds and the conditions are right, it is time to collect the plant matter and place it in a bowl or on a sheet. Poppy demonstrated with pusrlane seeds which were small, so we used a large bowl and massaged the seeds to help remove them.
Next, we used sieves to further separate the dry plant material and the seeds, allowing it to fall into the bowl. Then Poppy demonstrated ‘Winnowing’ where we blew gently onto the plant matter in the bowl, as our breath lifted the dry leaves out of the bowl and the denser seeds remained. Alongside using our breathe, we allowed the wind to separate the seeds by pouring the seed mix from one bowl to another. The whole process took around half an hour but eventually we were left with purslane seeds!
When it was our turn to demonstrate the seed-saving, we used Greek cress that had been drying in the greenhouse. As this was a large plant, it was laid out on a sheet where we took turns in stamping on the plant, to remove the seeds. The stems of the cress were moved onto the compost and the seeds with remaining plant material was mixed into a bowl. The ‘winnowing’ breath and using the wind technique was used again to further separate the matter.
When separated, the seeds were placed in a paper bag and stored somewhere dry until they need to be planted next spring/summer.
Fruit tree maintenance
Stephen led this session, introducing how to care and maintain the apple and plum trees in Global Gardens. Secateurs were required for this demonstration. The group needed to look at the tree and identify any leaves or branches that may be impacted by disease and needed to be removed before the fruit is affected.
Tomato pricking out
This skill was led by John, who is an ediculture course member and lead volunteer at the gardens. The tomato plants were in the polytunnel, supported by ropes to encourage upward growth. The aim of pricking out is to remove any smaller vines and leaves that were growing to allow the existing stems with fruit to gain concentrated nourishment.
With the opportunities to share skills and learn from one another, we had the opportunity to practice our active listening skills by providing our full attention to the teacher and could ask information for further clarity if required. When demonstrating the skill, it allowed everyone to practice communicating in a manner that is understandable for a wide variety of individuals with a range of learning requirements and various backgrounds.
After the demonstration and discussions, we stopped for lunch. As always member, Ruth, cooked up a delicious feast. This week we had ‘sour/fermented’ soup with onions, garlic, potato, and kale. Accompanied with fresh bread from Alex Gooch’s bakery and a fresh salad using ingredients picked from Global Gardens that some of the members made. For dessert, we had the choice of a blackcurrant tart, coconut, lime and banana cake and a rice crisps cake with dates, chocolates, and sprinkle of seeds. We enjoyed it all!
Following on from lunch, we sat around the campfire peacefully. The afternoon session focused on continuing our conversation skills. Stephen devised a game where everyone had to think of a topic (which could be to do with anything) write it down on a piece of paper, placing into a hat. The group split into pairs and we pulled out a topic which we needed to take turns to discuss in our pairs. The topics ranged from ‘Peas’ to ‘Mindfulness’ and ‘Economics in a global ecosystem’. The opportunity to discuss topics without fear of judgement was refreshing and appreciated.
We were encouraged to share and listen, even if opinions were different. These are all important values of a community garden where it may be required to handle differences and diverse conversations.
The day was ended by making CornDollys that Stephen demonstrated as we sat around the campfire. We had a go with 5 pieces of corn, plating them together to make the dolly.
With huge thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales for making this workshop possible.