Once upon a time, our remote hunter-gatherer ancestors figured out that they could improve the quality and quantity of their food supply if they helped it out a bit, by adding a splash of water here, a spot of compost there, and keeping the weeds and predators away. And so it came to pass: the first vegetable patch. Fast forward several millennia, to February 14, 2014: I received a vegetable patch for Valentine's Day. And ever since, this little patch has given me so much pleasure. We live in a terrace house with a pocket-handkerchief sized, fully-tiled courtyard out the back. Not exactly plant-friendly. So to grow my vegetables, we turned to the Little Veggie Patch Co for a no-dig, organic garden crate. If you want an easy, affordable, space-efficient garden, I highly recommend these guys. The veggie crates come in different sizes and, if you want to, you can have them delivered with organic soil, compost, worm-poo and anything else you need.
I really like the idea of everything a garden can teach Madeleine and Harry. At its most basic, the garden will teach them where food their comes from. You hear all these stories about children not knowing that apples grow on trees. My children will understand the whole process from paddock (or crate) to plate. The garden will also teach them about patience, about waiting for sunshine and rain, and about the slow rotation of the seasons, the time it takes for good things to grow. They will learn how to nurture and care for something, by giving the plants food and water and weed-free space to breathe. And they will learn about caterpillars and butterflies and snails and ladybirds.
That's a lot to learn from one square metre of dirt, wouldn't you agree?
I harvested my very first produce from this new garden on the weekend: baby heirloom beets. People have been growing and harvesting vegetables for tens of thousands of years. It's not exactly rocket science. But I was incredibly proud as I pulled those baby beets out of the warm earth. It's just so satisfying to grow your own food. Something else I'm glad my children will have a chance to learn.
Last night I steamed then lightly-sauteed the beet leaves in sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce, to go with our beef gyoza for dinner. Do you eat beet leaves? They taste mostly like spinach, with a hit of the earthy sweetness we associate with beetroot. Delicious!
As for the beets themselves, I paired them with baby Dutch carrots (not mine: I did plant some but they're not ready yet) and roasted them with orange and thyme. Those home-grown beets were some of the tastiest roast vegetables Mr B or I had ever had. Next time, I think I'll add some steamed green beans, and perhaps some dry-roasted almond slivers over the top for crunch.
How about you? How does your garden grow?