TRADITIONAL GARDENING WITH AUDREY, THE SEVEN SISTERS
To understand traditional gardening we must also learn the mythology behind the physical lessons of planting and harvest. The story of the Seven Sisters is the basis for the crop rotation and planting practices of traditional aboriginal gardens. It’s a deep and complex tale that we will be splitting into smaller segments as we continue in our apprenticeship with Audrey. You will find it to be a circular story where beginning meets end for time and time again.
Mankind was defenceless and weak, the plants were the first to notice their plight. They worried that with no claws and fangs to hunt and forage and no fur to keep them warm, they needed urgent help. It was during the winter that the first of the sisters awoke and joined the conversation, the Sun Root.
Jerusalem artichoke, (Helianthus tuberosus) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_artichoke This tuber is a nutritious source of the carbohydrate Inulin not starch. Inulin can help balance insulin in the body, the names often lead to confusion it’s actually contains the sugar fructose. Shaped like a “Sun” with additional “planet” tubers radiating from the centre, First Nations people named this plant the Sunroot. It’s high in potassium, iron, thiamine, niacin, copper and phosphorus.
Sunroot listened to the plants discussing the inevitable starvation of the people and knew she could help. Her tall stems grew higher than the snow, a marker for the people to find her. She agreed to allow her leaves and stem to be burnt to soften the ground and make it simple for the people to see and harvest her roots. The children made a game during this difficult time of winter harvest, it was a competitive race. As the first sister to help the people the Sunroot was proud of her good work and announced herself as the Ground breaker. Without her the soil is hard but breaking the ground is demanding work and when she is tired and it’s time to move on, her “planets” become smaller letting the second sister, Beans, know that her turn has come.
Harvesting Sunroot as needed from December till April prepares the garden for winter seeding of beans. These oral traditions may seem like simplistic tales but as we continue and the stories wind together we will find that they show a path to sustainable food production.