Safeguarding traditionally cultivated local vegetables
Over the years, the island has lost numerous crops whose seeds were once passed from one generation to another, and we need to rekindle consumers’ interest before we lose them all, the chair of the national hub for ethnobotanical research is urging.
One such seed is that of a particular cauliflower, which adapted so much to the local environment that it needed very little water to grow.
Growing this cauliflower now would be advantageous, considering the lack of rain we have seen lately, Mario Gerada noted.
Mr Gerada was speaking to this newspaper ahead of the launch of a research report on how to safeguard local heirloom and land-race seeds. The latter are seeds that have traditionally been passed on from one farmer to another and are no longer sown, because their produce is no longer visually attractive to the consumer – so there is no market for them.
Nowadays, farmers usually buy packaged seeds to grow crops, Mr Gerada explained.
The research, done by the hub, explored ways to rekindle enough interest in traditional vegetable seeds to merit their being cultivated again, conserving local genetic biodiversity and cultural heritage.
Mr Gerada noted that one proposal was to start off such cultivation within urban spaces such as community or monastic gardens, where the produce can be consumed for free by those who do not have access to fresh vegetables.
The report also recommends setting up an online sharing platform through the hub and establishing a repository in which resources, such as unused agricultural space, tools and seeds, can be lent and shared with people looking for them.
It meanwhile encouraged the government to enact policies that cared for farmers and rural communities, especially family and small-scale farms.
The research, conducted by Simone Cutajar, also comments on the lack of outreach and support systems to address finances, resources and information for those interested in setting up initiativeas at the grass-roots level .
In drawing up a set of solutions, the report notes that restaurants could serve as flagbearers of change by exposing consumers to produce they would otherwise not be aware of.
There were already outlets willing to take up this initiative, said Mr Gerada, urging partnerships between food outlets and farmers where the former would buy the produce directly from the latter. Labels could also include more information, such as the variety of the vegetables in the product, how best to use it and their origin.
Those interested in attending the launch of the report by the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society tomorrow at 4pm at the Kitchen Garden, San Anton Palace, can reserve a seat by e-mailing [email protected] or calling on 2148 4662.