Recreating an African food garden in the gray Piedmontese autumn … a mad idea. But what better way to bring to a close the crazy project that over the last two years has taken Slow Food to every corner of the African continent, to create a Thousand Gardens in Africa. How else could we present such a vast and important project at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre? Certainly not with panels, text and photographs. For a while, we suggested various possibilities: import containers of African produce, display jams, juices and dried vegetables. Then the idea, which initially seemed absurd: to create a huge African food garden in Turin. Visitors could see the plants and wander around them, getting to know the vast variety of leafy vegetables (the leaves of potatoes, pumpkin, amaranth, manioc and many more are commonly eaten around Africa), the medicinal herbs and the plants used to keep away troublesome insects, like vetiver. They could see up close a seedbed; how two plants are intercropped; systems for fertilizing without using chemicals; cheap methods of drip irrigation, both ancient (terracotta jars with holes) and new (old plastic bottles hanging from a line); fences made without wire or cement, using only materials from the garden, like branches, palm leaves, bamboo canes or even spiny shrubs.
In short, a huge teaching garden in the middle of the African exhibition area inside the Oval. A 400-square-meter space, covered in soil and crossed by footpaths, planted with seedlings and fruit trees, with a seedbed and compost bins. The African food garden will represent the 25 countries involved in the project, and is intended as a kind of compendium, bringing together crops and techniques that would never coexist in nature, from different latitudes and different seasons.
It will be made possible by the hard work and dedication of Alda Garro, who for months has been sowing all kinds of exotic varieties in her farm in Peveragno, near Cuneo, so that they will be ready for October, and the collaboration of three agronomists, Ezio Giraudo, Francesco Sottile and Cristiana Peano. This anomaly is justified by its mission: to help everyone to understand and learn about the richness of the biodiversity of this extraordinary continent where we all originated.
Extracted from “Un orto Africano a Torino,” by Serena Milano, published in Slowfood 55.
Discover the African food garden at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, in Turin from October 25 to 29, 2012.