In 1-4 July 2019, Latvian Permaculture Association members Ilze Mežniece and Sandra Stabinge visited 12 gardens in Latgale (Aglona and Daugavpils districts).
64 heritage plants were found in Latgale region, where the oldest traceable was the apple tree 'Baltais Dzidrais' (White Transparent) planted in 1929 in Sollomina Manor near Aglona.
Gardeners in Latgale are growing their own tomatoes, potatoes, sweet garden peas, pumpkins, zucchinis, beans, broad beans, dill, spring onions, "family onions", plum trees and saving the seeds of these plants for more than 40 years.
As far as the hostess could recall, mallows, gladiolas, "family onions" (in another garden), beans, dill, cucumbers have been grown there for more than 50 years.
The history of cucumbers, rhubarb, gooseberry, white broad bean, asparagus can be traced back 70 years.
When approaching people, it is quite important to break the ice of first rejection, the barrier of disbelief. Sandra and Ilze took with them their heritage seeds - that helped a lot to describe the seed-saving idea and open people up for conversation.
Even though usually people said that they have nothing, or at least nothing special, after mentioning examples to them and explaining, they started to slowly open up and think which plants are grown in their garden more than 30 years. Several gardeners were generous to share their seeds (pumpkin, corn, soy beans, cucumbers, beans, peas).
In many homes at the end of the visit the gardeners felt emotionally uplifted and satisfied as they understood the value of the work they were doing all their life. They committed themselves to continue to grow their plants, to preserve old fruit trees, and to share their heritage plants with relatives and neighbors to ensure that these stay alive for future generations.
In July 2019, project members Anta, Raivis, Guntra, Daina, Sandra visited gardens in Riga region - Salaspils, Daugmale, Dole Island.
The expedition started in Salaspils where one family understands the value of heritage plants and keeps a garden with astonishing diversity. They have a red Atriplex hortensis and Kosmeja (Cosmos) which they have received in heritage from their grandmother in Latgale.
Next stop was at the garden of collector Guntis Grants in Daugmale. He has a vast collection of lilies, daylilies and peonies. Besides this abundance of flowers in that garden, we also found sweet garden peas and a rare variety of sour cherries called "Stikla ķirši" (Glass Cherry) which are very good for jams, with a distinct flavour.
Guntis Grants is a lily and daylily collector who took over more than 11 varieties of Janis Vasarietis' daylilies selected in the 1970s.
The expedition continued in Dole Island where 7 different varieties of the apple tree "Baltais dzidrais" were found in the garden of a tea producer. According to their story, during the times when there were no cars it was difficult to transport summer apples by horse to Riga market without damage. But growers in those older times were able to bring apples to the market by boat.
In neighbor's garden, beautiful heritage flowers and beans are grown.
On 8 Aug 2019, Sandra Stabinge visited gardens in Kurzeme - in Gramzda and Nīgrande.
In Gramzda, more than 50 years ago the grandfather of Māris Narvils planted apple trees from seeds of the variety "Rudens svītrotais" and selected the tastiest ones. They are given local names – 'amber jam' apple tree, the 'flat one', 'raspberry' apple tree. Many valuable fruit trees still are growing in that garden: old huge pear tree – more than 2m in perimeter of the trunk, red cherries with yellow flesh, gooseberries, classic red currants.
Next stop was in the center of Gramzda where former teacher Skaidra is an enthusiastic gardener all her life and had grown gladiolas, henomeles, gooseberries, Artemisia abrotanum, black currant and gooseberry crossbreed Ribes × nidigrolaria, winter garlic, "3 floor" onions and an apple tree of a very unusual taste.
Inspired by our visit, Skaidra with the support of Māris Narvils organized a local seed exchange event in 2020 where they used also the training materials created during Nordplus project and adapted in Latvian for seed exchange in Ikšķile.
Ingūna lives close to Gramzda where a fruit garden was planted by her father, an agronomist. The oldest apple tree is older than 100 years.
Daina in Nīgrande maintains a huge collection of heritage plants and animals - very unique, very small and early garden peas, 3 types of "family onions", beans, soy beans, large variety of dahlias and other plants. She also had old varieties of chicken, ducks, Latvian brown and blue cow.