Tina Hillier - Zuzana Pastorková, Dlha Nad Vahom - Slovakia - #1
Along the river Váh, an hour from Slovakia’s capital city Bratislava, lies the small village of Dlha Nad Vahom. Zuzana Pastorková spent her childhood summers here, staying in her grandmother’s communist style bungalow, before leaving to work on luxury yachts around Europe. When Zuzana came home seven years ago, she wanted to grow food that carried the flavour and traditions of the vegetables she remembered from her youth and she set about creating a market garden and running a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) from the seeds and cuttings given to her by the local community.
Zuzana now cultivates 40 different varieties of vegetable, ten herbs and many different types of fruit tree. When harvested they are packed into boxes and feed around 40 families in the region. Seventy percent of this food is grown from seed that has either been handed down to her by her family or she has sourced from her travels. Her quarter of an acre garden now boasts beans from Ireland and Hungary, onions from Romania and pumpkins from Cyprus.
All the seeds come with their own story but her favourite is a strawberry, whose aroma dominates the garden. ‘We call it the Budapest Strawberry’ she says, ‘because it was brought to the village at the beginning of the last century by a traveller from the village who found it in a garden of an aristocrat family in Budapest. It was then handed from garden to garden. Its aroma is there the minute I open the gate in the morning and it is a strawberry with the richest flavour I’ve ever tasted!’
The garden’s secret heroes, however, are its six Indian Runner Ducks who keep the slugs and snails down by feasting on them. Zuzana calls them her ‘girls and boys‘ and regularly tells them off when they move from eating slugs to eating her vegetables instead. Zuzana puts the success of the garden down to the way everything works together. ‘This is very different to industrial agriculture. It’s about being in tune with nature, learning from her and being part of her. The magic and mystery is so important. To understand what’s happening in nature you have to be quiet and observe and then the answers emerge on their own.’