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Apr 6, 2021
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Who are the “spitters”, what they did in Russia and why they were held in high esteem

In the old days in Russia, there were many professions, which in our time not only do not exist, but for the most part have remained forgotten in the people’s memory. One of these specialties can be considered “spitters”. They appeared in Slavic villages and cities in pre-Christian times. At the same time, the last spitters met in a Russian village at the beginning of the 19th century. What did women with such an exotic name do?

Everyone worked in the village. Photo: livemaster.ru.

Before potatoes appeared on the territory of Russia, turnip was the main agricultural crop for the vast majority of farms in the middle zone. Growing turnips is not very difficult. The plant is not too whimsical, and therefore if Mother Nature does not malign with special cynicism, then the harvest of this crop will be good. Harvesting turnips is easy, at least compared to other crops. Another thing is replanting. Planting turnips is another adventure.

Peasant labor is difficult. Photo: fotostrana.ru.

For summer residents, it will not be a discovery that turnip seeds are very small and light. In a few grams, a couple of hundreds of turnip seeds can fit. It is difficult for a modern person to assess the full responsibility of the planting process of this culture in the current conditions for two reasons. The first is that summer residents, as a rule, sow small areas with turnips. The second is that today turnip seeds are cheap and easy to get in the store. It was not like that for our ancestors. The beet seed stock was almost a treasure, and large areas had to be sown.

Potatoes and turnips are the basis of the diet. Photo: dhoz.ru.

Sowing turnips like cereals is absolutely impossible. Turnip does not tolerate crowding, and therefore it is forbidden to scatter seeds, such as millet. The root crop must be planted in even, orderly rows in order to produce a good harvest. And for this, each seed should be placed in the ground separately, preferably with more or less the same step. Actually, for this, spitters were needed in the peasant communities. These were women and children who were planting turnips.

Very small and lightweight. Photo: domsadinfo.ru.

The technique was as follows: the spitter would take seeds into her mouth, and then gently spit them out one piece at a time into the planting site. Sounds simple. However, in fact, this event requires serious skill and not hefty dexterity. Therefore, good spitters have always been valued in the communities.

Turnip loves order. Photo: rastenievod.com.

Thus, turnips have been sown for many centuries. True, in the Russian Empire, with the advent of potatoes, the need for planting turnips decreased somewhat. Although, the last spitters were also found in the villages at the dawn of Soviet Russia. They finally disappeared only during the times of collectivization and industrialization in the USSR. The advent of special seeders, as well as the radical reduction in the cost of seeds, made this form of labor absolutely unnecessary.



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