Heritage foods are foods that play a vital role in cultural traditions, rituals, and/or cuisines. The herbs used in a particular region give an identity to the food from that place. Although not restricted to it, these herbs, plants or condiments are representative of the flora and whether of a region; what grows in a place becomes a part of its cultural cuisine.
Although they have been passed down from generation to generation, these foods are becoming less available due to large-scale agriculture and other systemic reasons. In many cases it is up to small scale farmers and gardeners to tend to these varieties and pass on the cultural importance of these foods to future generations. Beyond just being a fruit, vegetable or herb, these foods each hold an important story of tradition, culture, and place.
Kula Nursery is a grassroots urban nursery trying to preserve that tradition by working within and for BIPOC communities to increase food sovereignty through garden education and culturally relevant plants. The mother and grandmother of founder Zee Hussain, who migrated to Pakistan from India during the partition, taught her about the importance of preserving their cultural identity through the preparation of traditional South Asian meals.
Ginger, desi tomato, tulsi, tamarind, paan and basil are some of the heritage plants prevalent in South Asian cuisines that the nursery grows. Through countless interactions with community members at farmers markets, Kula nursery is slowly inching its way towards identifing the specific foods that are greatly desired for culinary, medicinal and spiritual purposes. It is reconnecting the diaspora with heritage food, strengthening food sovereignty among BIPOC communities, and promoting cultural and biological diversity.
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