…than it usually ends up being something marvelous. Almost a century ago a gardener couple from Bulgaria moved to Hungary. Their children were not interested in their profession, but one of their grandchildren suddenly became fascinated with plants and the earth. This person – who worked as an accountant, until this point – felt like, she finally found her calling. The story of Szilvi Zsekov.
- What does it mean to be a “bolgárkertész”?
(Note that in hungarian the word “bolgárkertész”, is commonly used to identify the group of bulgarians migrating to hungary during the second half of the 19th century, their gardening techniques were so unique and so advanced, that they were in a monopoly situation until the end of WWI)
- Overflowing pride – says Szilvi instantly. A bolgárkertész treats the earth with love and respect. That’s what I saw at my grandma. Even if she was only planting a paprika, it was magical. I can’t exactly explain why, she was just touching everything differently from everyone else.
- What is the secret?
- Even I can’t explain it, where is affection toward the earth coming from. I can’t wait to get my hands all muddy and sandy. I don’t like to work in gloves, it doesn’t bother me if the dirt goes underneath my nails. One of the unique methods they used was the flooding irrigation technique. They had just the right size of hoes, to shape crevices for the water to flow. Thanks to this, the plants were on higher ground, the patches between the crevices are called a “bakhát”. This way you could use your available space smarter: for example, in the middle you plant carrots that have long roots, while on the sides you plant salads. I’m not sure how experienced they were in what we call gardening today, what I do know is that the techniques they used were really effective.
- Even the farthest parts of the garden got enough water?
- We split the garden into different sections. When grandma thought one of the “thirsty” parts got enough water, we just redirected the watering mechanism to a different part. This construction looked like a shadoof. When you needed water you just pulled out a plug and the water started flowing instantly. The reason why this is really useful is because if you use the conventional method of watering during a hot spell your plants will get burned. In our method the plants get water from underneath and it prevents any burn damage. It wasn’t an accident, our plants looked so gorgeous.
- Your grandparents on your father’s side are both Bulgarians. How much could you learn from them?
- Sadly i didn’t know my grandfather, he died before i was born. But my grandmother taught me a lot, I was in my twenties when she passed away. She used every centimeter of the garden, never let anything go to waste. I haven’t tasted tomatoes or paprikas as good as hers ever since. She pretty much made vegetables out of thin air, didn’t use any chemicals or sprays. The only thing she insisted on was using the flooding irrigation methot.
- Was she in the garden until the very end?
- Yes, as long as she was able. I joined her in my teens, and later when my parents bought a garden in Adony, I’ve helped them as well from time-to-time. A few years ago I took a 180 degree turn in my life, when partially consciously, partially unconsciously I’ve started to work in the garden. I felt like I finally found my home, I feel like I am where I’m supposed to be.
- Why did you start working with herbs?
- I’m not exactly sure why, but the urge was so strong, that I’ve got a degree in herb growing and processing. I’ve learned everything there is, but in the beginning I’ve used my own techniques to grow herbs, I’ve had everything planned out in advance. First It was enough for my friends and family, but now I make enough to sell as well. In my opinion most people have no idea how herbs work and they have a lot of misinformation. I feel like a bit of a mission of mine, to help people get to know herb s better.
- You even have award winning dogs, and a while ago you started to dig deep into the world of veterinary medicine from the perspective of herbs, it’s an interesting mix.
- Giving herbs to dogs in nothing new, even folk-medicine used it hundreds of years ago. Natural cures, and treatments are at their renaissance nowadays, not only in human medicine but in veterinary medicine as well. More and more people use herbs to treat their pets. I encourage everyone to give a chance to herbs, to prevent and cure illness, herbs can do much more than most people think. It’s important to note, that it can’t replace the diagnosis or treatment of a veterinarian, but in some cases, mostly for chronic diseases, herb can play a big part in prevention or in complementing the medicines.
Here is az immunity booster tea recipe, for dogs and owners as well:
- 2 g camomille
- 3 g linden
- 1 g thyme
- 0,5 g levander
- 0,5 g rosemary
You can get in contact with Szilvi at the Holdvirág Udvar Facebook page. Here you can ask all your questions, and even place orders. It’s important to know that even though Szilvi used every centimetre, the size of the garden is limited. She’s working in a small area and only uses the healthy part of the plants.
At Bosnyák square in Budapest there is a statue in honour of the Bulgarian gardeners. At the end of the 19th century tens of thousands of them worked in Hungary, most of them settled here. They’ve brought with them, new techniques, gardening culture, and unknown vegetables.