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18 June 2014
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Soil steaming c 1918
© The Peter Brehaut Collection
Cooking the earth

Between October and Christmas of each year, a visitor to Guernsey during the 20th Century might have noticed a strange, “nutty” smell in the air. This, in fact, was the smell of “cooked earth”, and the product of soil steaming - the process used by local tomato growers to sterilise the soil between crops. Local men worked round the clock, piping steam through the soil to kill any soil-borne diseases. This was back-breaking work, and yet what to us in this high-tech age might seem a relatively primitive method of sterilisation, was actually carried on until the late 1970s. The pungent smell of steamed earth brings memories of this bygone era flooding back for many islanders, who still remember the “Guernsey Tom” with affection. More...

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