HIstorical Seed Postcard, TorontoHow does a new organization dedicated to educating folks about growing and cooking food make a name for itself at the Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival?  As “Celebrating our Culinary Heritage” is this years’ theme, The Local Community Food Centre saw a great opportunity to create heritage vegetable beds for display in the city centre during the festival weekend (September 21-23)!

Historically, farming and the culinary arts have had a huge impact on Stratford.  According to the Savour Stratford web page, “we have been cultivating a local culinary heritage and pleasing palates since 1832.”  In order to determine what might have been grown in a Stratford potage garden, The Frugal Housewife’s Manual, circa 1840 by A.B of Oshawa was consulted.  The manual lists a number of vegetables from the unusual (mangel wurtzel), to the familiar (‘love apples’ aka tomatoes), but no varieties.

Seeds of Diversity does list heritage plant varieties.  Historical seed catalogues are among the many treasures located on the Seeds of Diversity site, of which two were particularly apt for our project.  Marcon’s Genuine Garden Seeds (Guelph 1880) and Ontario Seed Company Successors Seeds (Waterloo 1913) provided rich listings. Selecting the heirloom vegetables to be planted in the beds is the next step on this journey.

Designed to be a self-guided educational tour on the beauty and practicality of growing local vegetables, the heritage beds will also celebrate the history of homesteading, local farming, urban farming, local propagation of seeds, and inspire the general public to explore the possibilities of growing and harvesting their own food. The beds will be built and planted at The Local Community Food Centre’s community garden, and the portable containers will be housed there until Savour Stratford.  Then they will be relocated to the city centre for the duration of the Festival, where an estimated 30,000 food-loving attendees will have the opportunity to be educated on heritage plant breeds, historical potage (vegetable) gardens, raised bed gardening, urban farming… and Community Food Centres! And in keeping with the Frugal Housewife, the vegetables will not go to waste: the crops will be harvested for use in drop-in meals and cooking classes held at The Local Community Food Centre.