I hope this note finds you well.
Yesterday was Seedy Saturday in London, Ontario. Lots of conversations with lots of gardeners. Displays and talks about gardening. Seeds for sale.
I bought seeds from Kim Delaney of Hawthorn Farm (www.hawthornfarm.ca). Kim is brilliant and practical, understands the importance of good seed and healthy soil. I bought Aleppo hot pepper seeds ... casually, because Aleppo and Syria are in the news and I thought growing those peppers would keep me mindful of that county’s difficulties.
Well, today I looked up the Aleppo pepper – which is a common enough pepper to have its own Wikipedia entry – and got popular beyond its origin border in the mid 1990s. It was good to know that when it’s properly ripe it’ll be burgundy ... growing tips are good. And it’s not a really, really hot pepper ... so the pepper-sensitive in our household will be o.k. with it.
And then I looked at some of the other entries that popped out of Google search ... and came upon a National Geographic article from May 16, 2014, which was about two weeks after “either one side or the other destroyed the city’s water supply.” The city being referred to is Aleppo. And the war situation referred to is, of course, the war in Syria ... which is destroying lives, buildings, infrastructure, and agriculture ... including the growing and trade in spices ... including the Aleppo pepper.
As author Maryn McKenna wrote in 2014, “With 100,000 dead and grave diseases such as polio spreading in the turmoil, the loss of a spice might seem a small matter. But the peppers of northern Syria are not just a flavor; they are a heritage.”
A heritage in food culture and family. To the Syrian growers and cooks, it won’t matter that across the border farmers in Turkey grow the same pepper – the Aleppo pepper – and give it a different name, Maras, after the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras.
Aleppo seeds are those kept by growers, smallholders, householders, men and women in Syria. And those seeds in Syria have a lifespan. What’s the lifespan of pepper seeds? Four or five years? Who is saving the Syrian Aleppo pepper seeds - who is able to grow out the seeds to have more seeds - amidst bombs and terror and loss and drought?
My little Aleppo pepper seeds are probably great, great, great grandchildren seeds of peppers that came from Syria 20 years ago ... getting over to Southwestern Ontario by whatever route it was. I didn’t realize the responsibility I took on yesterday when I bought my seeds.
Food connects. Seeds connect. The practicality, the reality, of such small things is huge and pushes at my heart and mind.
How the Syrian Conflict Affects Your Spice Rack. by Maryn McKenna, National Geographic, May 16, 2014 http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2014/05/16/a-brutal-war-destroys-a-city-and-a-spice/