Ahmet Caglar – Full interview

My Story

My name is Ahmet. I’m originally from Turkey. I’m using my back garden for this project. It’s a small garden. Actually there is only one raised bed and some containers.

Why I grow my own food
It’s very exciting and it’s valuable. At least the effort of it, all the process of growth and being busy in this process, and getting the results. And in some ways sharing it with friends and neighbours, when possible, is very rewarding.

Why I save seeds
I don’t always save seeds to be honest. I sometimes save seeds that I find difficult to find here. That’s one reason. And also sometimes to share with friends and neighbours. It’s a resource and we can keep it and we can continue with it and we can share it. Otherwise it’s a waste of money, waste of resources. And it’s a continuous chain, which is also exciting, to know the history of the seed. There are lots of other stories attached to it.

Connection between growing and my heritage
Two plants I tried to grow in this project are linked to my background, to my childhood. The purslane, my mother used to cook. It has some sort of emotional link attached to it. Similarly the chickpeas, we used to eat them fresh. In the markets they used to sell them and they are eaten like a delicacy, green and very delicious. I was excited to grow and eat them like that.

How I feel when I work in the garden
Failures are sometimes frustrating. But as a process I think it’s rewarding, it’s something you do with your hands and also your mind. You make structures and you make some plans. And also you care for them, especially in their early stages.

I work as a counsellor, and in two of my work places I work in the garden with clients. Gardening facilitates a lot of positive things in the work and in their world because it’s a process. It’s about life. It’s about growth and death and decay, which is all together. And when they see it, when we see it together, in the garden throughout seasons, it’s more valuable and important than talking about it as a kind of theory. Also being active, doing things outside, working in the soil, with soil, these things can change moods easily. It also reminds them a lot of childhood memories. And also it helps them to build their confidence, that they can do something, they can grow things and then harvest and then use the seeds and sow seeds again and seeing the process, the cycle.

Ahmet on Chickpeas

Where the seeds came from
I got seeds from two different seed companies.

How to grow
I started indoors, in April or early May, in these root trainers, and I just sowed them in each section. I put the water at the bottom of the trainers and left them indoors. When they germinated and the seedlings grew, I transplanted them outside. Two or three plants germinated.

Tips and challenges
In some places they say it’s not a fussy plant, don’t worry about the soil condition, just sow them. But in other places they say the roots are very fragile, be careful, and that sort of thing. Some places advise using root trainers in order not to disturb the roots. Which I did. But it didn’t work actually. I sowed more than sixty seeds and only two plants came up. I collected only around nine or ten seeds. This is a failure for this crop. But I would like to try again.

How to save seeds
I just waited for them to dry on the plant. Then when I saw that they were dry enough I collected them. It’s very easy to collect seeds.

My intention was to eat them fresh, without cooking. I ate a few green pods. But that’s it. It wasn’t like when I was a child. We would buy a big bunch, and you just ate them like that, and there were plenty. When we cook dried chickpeas we generally boil them. We use them in salads, or we cook them as a separate dish, with some onions and tomato and tomato paste and chili, and then eat with rice or bulgur wheat.

Ahmet on Purslane

Where the seeds came from
I got the seeds from Turkey.

How to grow
This is a warmer climate plant, therefore it’s better to wait until May to sow outside. Or maybe even later, to make sure that the soil and the weather is warm enough for germination. Prepare a good seed bed and then sow it. I never started inside or in a seed tray. I directly broadcast the seeds, that’s my way. They are not fussy. Within six weeks you can start picking.

I found the germination a bit erratic. In some parts it worked, in some parts it didn’t germinate.

How to save seeds

Towards the end of the season you can get seeds. Collecting is easy. They are actually in the tip of the plant, the cluster of very tiny black seeds. Actually you feel them because they start to open up, the seed pods, and there are many small black seeds. Then just bring an envelope and gently touch the seed head, and they will fall.

Somewhere in Turkey they call purslane “seed thrower”, because the black seeds throw themselves onto the soil. And the next year you may find some plants, as they can germinate from there.

Take some purslane, wash it and then add yoghurt, garlic, virgin olive oil, a little bit of salt. That’s it, that’s one recipe. And the other is grating some tomato into the purslane, add vinegar and garlic. That’s another quick recipe. They are different but both delicious. Purslane is a bit fleshy. It doesn’t have a kind of distinct flavour,
but maybe this fleshiness gives it some sort of substance.