Julia Sherman: What is blueyellow, and how did you arrive at that name?
Caroline Heredia Abernethy: blueyellow is a small batch seasonal product line made from the herbs we grow right here in Madrid. It’s the result of an exquisite selection of herbs whose seeds that we sourced from different parts of the world.
It’s meaning can be as simple as, “water (blue) and sun (yellow) — all a plant needs.” The name blueyellow is also a reference to the colors just before they combine they make green. Its about that moment before, that fraction of space/time where we can re-think green.
JS: Tell me how you first became interested in organic gardening and herbs?
CHA: This was definitely the influence of my grandparents. I grew up between Caracas and San Francisco, although very divergent cultures, both places had incredible produce. My American grandparents had a small backyard where they grew vegetables and herbs. Noonny, my grandmother would make these delicious meals, all from scratch, using whatever they had in the garden, herbs included. Herbs were that fancy touch in the kitchen. It’s funny, I’m just remembering that my grandfather didn’t like when I harvested the vegetables. I guess they were too precious?! I was only allowed to go into the herb boxes, and I loved it.
JS: I was really surprised to find that Spanish food was so absent of herbs. Do you feel like people there are just learning that virtues of herbs and greens?
CHA: Spanish cuisine in general is very basic, based on a very good quality produce, they don’t play a lot around that. They haven’t felt that curiosity.
There is a lack of attention paid to the details when it comes to herbs – their textures, their colors and most importantl, their complex flavors. We are located in the Mediterranean Sea and have a unique microclimate. In reality, lots of the herbs we know well, and those we don’t know yet, are native to this part of the world.
JS: Are you interested in supporting a new movement in Spanish cuisine, or do you think there is room to update the classic food with the spectrum of flavor that can come from your garden?
CHA: We think there is room for more than one perspective. In the end, that’s what all this is about. Getting people to try and use different ingredients is good for our culture and our environment. People are increasingly curious to try new foods and flavors, but they also want to know where they come from. We have designed several public and private tasting experiences with our blueyellow herbs, and it is amazing to watch people’s reactions as they smell/taste something that either cultivates a strong association for them, or opens their minds to something completely new. It’s been very positive. The key is to be willing to play, to experiment, to enjoy and dislike, to try new stuff, eat plants and most importantly, to cook! We just want to arouse creativity.
JS: Is the idea of urban farming still new to Madrid?
CHA: Yes, this is very new. However, a long time ago there were some really great urban farming projects in retirement communities, but unfortunately they no longer exist. Urban farming in Madrid today is focused exclusively as community gardens, which are very useful to the community, but is not necessarily addressing food production on a larger scale. In fact achieving these community gardens has been a hell of a fight with city authorities. As incredible as it sounds, Spain has a very strong rural farming culture, so the idea of urban farming is challenging to us.
JS: You also work making short films and documentaries. What are you working on now?
CHA: We recently finished Voice Notes, our latest short film. It’s not about food, but it’s about the culture around cycling in London. The film is based on the work of German photographer Horst A. Friedrichs and directed by my partner Luis. I work supporting the production process for almost all the projects at our studio, Beta Studio.
JS: Is a film about urban farming in the works?
CHA: Of course we want to do films that have to do with gardening!!! That is the best of the two worlds! We just started working in a short documentary series about local producers crossing views between design and farming. We are very looking forward to it!!