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Back to February 2015 Newsletter

Saving Savory

Those of you who have used summer savory in your cooking before already know how delicious it is. According to one of our members, however, there is one variety of summer savory that is particularly special, and the story that goes with it definitely is.

In 2012, Seeds of Diversity member Jocelyne Gauvin noticed a variety of summer savory (Satureja hortensis), called Ancienne d’Acadie, in the Seeds of Diversity member directory. Jocelyne, who lives in Cocagne, NB, wrote to Norbert Robichaud, the member who was offering to share it, and requested some seed. 

A few months later, when she harvested the first leaves, Jocelyne was pleasantly surprised. The savory was delicious, and quite unlike any other variety she had eaten. Excited about this new addition to her garden and kitchen, Jocelyne wrote to Norbert, who lives in Bathurst, NB, to find out more about it. This is what he shared with her.

The story of Ancienne d’Acadie can be traced back to Burnt Church, New Brunswick, where in the late 1800s, Jean Prudent Robichaud was given some seeds from an aboriginal woman who lived in the area. Robichaud (1867-1958) lived with his wife in Canton-des-Robichaud, and used to do farm work for aboriginal farmers in the area. Later, his children settled on the land, and his daughter-in-law began to grow the seed in the 1930s.

In 1959, Robichaud’s granddaughter, Anita Beattie, got the seed from her mother, and began to grow Ancienne d’Acadie savory in Rivière-du-Portage, in northeast New Brunswick, where she settled with her husband. She and her sister continue to grow the variety and save seed today, as does Seeds of Diversity member Norbert Robichaud who has been growing it since 1980. Since he shared it in the member seed directory in 2012, other members are now growing it and it has been offered in the member directory again this year.

Last year, Norbert grew enough seed to share with the Atlantic Seed Bank, a project of the Bauta Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, as well as with us at Seeds of Diversity to put in the Canadian Seed Library. Best of all, the Gauvin family, who are still growing and enjoying Ancienne d’Acadie, have adopted the variety into the seed library, permanently preserving this important piece of our food and seed heritage! 

Summer savory is widely used in maritime cuisine, but few seed varieties are grown here in Canada anymore. It is an essential ingredient in the traditional Acadian “fricot” and is a delicious addition to stews, soups, Herbes de Provence mixes, and other dishes. 

Ancienne d’Acadie is particularly adapted to the soil and climate of Eastern Canada. It is shorter and stockier than other varieties, and is more cold resistant. It is less productive and produces fewer leaves, but also has a stronger taste. It has lots of flowers, blooms all season long, and bees love it!

Norbert direct sows the seeds, and leaves the plants in the garden till early November to save seeds. By then, the leaves drop off the plants, leaving the seed pods, which he dries, winnows in a light wind, and finishes cleaning by rolling them on a sheet of paper and blowing gently on them to roll them away from the debris. He reminds us though, that we still have these seeds today because of our ancestors’ seed saving habits. At the end of the growing season, women would pick summer savory, dry it, and then separate the leaves from the branches. The dried leaves – which inevitably had small seeds with them as well – went in glass bottles to be used through the winter. Luckily for us, when the leaves were used up, the seeds would remain at the bottom of the bottles, and were re-sowed in the spring! 

A big thanks to Annie Beattie and Norbert Robichaud for keeping Ancienne d’Acadie summer savory alive, and to the Gauvin family for permanently adopting it into the seed library. And of course, thank you to all our members for the many incredible varieties you grow, save, preserve and share!

To try growing Ancienne d’Acadie or any of the other 3059 fantastic varieties of herbs, vegetables or beans our members have shared this year, check out the 2015 member seed directory. (The directory is only available to members; if you are not a member, you can sign up at www.seeds.ca/member). 

To fully or partially adopt a variety in the seed library, visit www.seeds.ca/adopt-a-seed.

 

Photo credit: Slow Food Cocagne Acadie


 

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