The woman saving Palestinian heirloom seeds

The woman saving Palestinian heirloom seeds

Sansour knows she can’t completely transform local agricultural methods, but she hopes to help preserve at least some of this traditionally farmed land so that future generations can have a reference point to see what their bio heritage looks like and can work to keep it alive. “I hope we can continue to work this land, really our hands are on our hearts when we talk about it, and I’m pained because I’m worried,” said Sansour.

Seeds are not the only thing Sansour is saving. In order to preserve the Palestinian recipes that utilise heirloom food, Sansour created the Travelling Kitchen, built by hand from wood and able to be packed into in a car.

In one of her pop-up kitchen events, Sansour made riqaq o addas, a pasta-and-lentil dish topped with a sour sauce of foraged wild sumac berries. Sansour is also fond of the Battiri baitinjan, the eggplant from Battir, which she uses to make mutabal mahshi. To make this twist on the traditional mutabal, the eggplant is roasted over a hot flame until charred and then cut open in the centre to be stuffed with garlic and fresh herbs including zaatar, a wild herb from the thyme family, picked from the mountain. A mix of lemon juice and tahini made from sesame seeds traditionally grown in the north is drizzled over the top just before serving.

The Travelling Kitchen lets people come together to share and preserve stories. Elders who come along to share a meal often bring up the names of plants Sansour has never heard of. These interactions begin a new cycle of falling in love with a story – like she did with the nutty-flavoured Abu Samra (meaning “the dark and handsome one”) wheat  – and pursuing another lost heirloom variety, searching until she finds a last remaining seed to be planted once again, harvested and saved.

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