GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.
MY PATCH. I have a small suburban block but, at the last count, there were over 70 edible plants scattered about – in the ground and in containers – producing about 500 kilos of food every year.

Gardening IS a subversive activity.

In this time of global pandemic when we have all felt confused, overwhelmed and pretty powerless in the face mounting lockdowns – coupled with financial, and very real health concerns – it helps to focus on something that not only makes us happy, but gives us SOME POWER BACK.

Believe it or not, gardening can do this – especially the kind that feeds us – because alarmingly, the multinationals are, with government backing, doing everything in their power to stop you feeding yourself and dominate world food production. WHY? Well, if you think about it, every dollar you DON’T spend in the shops is a dollar less for them – it’s essentially about taking the POWER away from someone else (the baddies) and giving it back to yourself (the goodies).

So, as the clock ticks over to another New Year, I would like to give you some POWER back – some JOY and SATISFACTION too – something positive. Just simply, get outside and grow something – even if you only have space for a pot of parsley and some chives -they will taste better than anything you can buy at the supermarket. There is no WASTE and you can pick them WHEN you need them.

I have a theory that some folk are reluctant to get into food gardening because they have never experienced what REAL FOOD TASTES LIKE – they think it all tastes like crap because everything they eat has come from a shop – mass produced, industrialised food.. But, let me tell you, there is no comparison between a homegrown tomato and a shop bought one. And don’t even start me on hydroponic herbs and greens – and I think I could convert everyone to broccoli if they ate it from the garden – freshly picked.

I have just spent the worst year of my life, floundering in a black hole of grief and sadness, after my darling Michael died after 54 years together. Over this long year my garden has been my solace and place of comfort – and sometimes the only thing that made any sense. Did I say that when you plant a garden you are sowing seeds of HOPE too?

EXAMPLE: GENETIC MODIFICATION of CROPS

In recent years, the agricultural giant Monsanto has successfully sued hundreds of small farmers in the US in attempts to protect their GM crops. They were sued because seeds from these traditional farmers crops ‘contaminated’ the GM crops growing on adjacent Monsanto owned farms. Monsanto has been successful in winning cases of more than $23 million from these ‘traditional farmers’ One organic farmer in Canada tried the reverse and sued Monsanto for contaminating his organic crops – the seed bank of which he had been building up for many years – he was unsuccessful. (Guardian, Paul Harris, 13 Feb 2013)

Another example. One of the main reasons for companies to genetically modify food crops is to make them resistant to herbicides. That way they can blanket spray a field – killing the weeds, but saving the crops. Whoever came up with idea that it was then perfectly OK to eat foods laced in herbicide is either a total idiot or really evil. Discuss. Are you ready to roll your sleeves up yet?

This daily call to arms – and carrots and parsley – has hung in pride of place for many years in my house. It is a poster from the 1970’s by artist Frances Phoenix. Matilda Press Sydney. Original in QAGOMA Brisbane

If you think I have succumbed to the latest round of conspiracy theories – then think again – because in just a few decades these global companies, that control most of the world’s food production, have committed various acts of bastardry on the human race with the sole intention of preventing them carrying out, what is essentially, a fundamental human right – the right to feed themselves.

EXAMPLE: POTATOES

The time honoured way of growing your own potatoes was to wait for a few unused ones to start sprouting (chitting) in the pantry, then plant them. Not any more. 76% of all conventional potatoes contains chlorpropham, a herbicide that is used to stop the growth of weeds and to inhibit potato sprouting. Obviously, this is not only done to artificially increase their shelf life, but it is also done to prevent you from growing another crop from the old one. Oh, by the way, chlorpropham is also toxic to bees. (USDA Pesticide Data Program 2013)

Months old supermarket potatoes that refuse to sprout.

How and why I have been SUBVERTED – and how YOU can be too!

Mulling over how to tell this story all started with some food I made for friends a couple of days ago that not only made feel very happy – but I felt empowered too These were good feelings. I need more of them.

WHY DID IT MAKE ME FEEL LIKE THAT? Well everything fresh had come from my garden and the tuna had been caught by my son, Nick, the previous day – and it tasted damn good too. Oh, and it only cost me about $1 to make – 2 tsp sugar, 2 tbsp coconut, 1 tbsp fish sauce. The rest was essentially free – the citrus lime, makrut lime leaves, chilli and betel leaf are all easy to grow perennial plants in my garden.

TOP TIP: If you want to get more bang for your buck in the garden – PLANT PERENNIALS

SEARED TUNA on BETEL LEAF with TOASTED COCONUT, LIME and CHILLI

Gardening IS POWER

FOOD IS A FORM OF ENERGY – it’s what our bodies run on. So when you grow your own food you are not only creating body fuel, but you are shifting that balance of power – clawing back a fundamental to your existence.

WHAT AM I EFFECTIVELY DOING IN PREPARING A MEAL LIKE THIS?

  • Taking POWER INTO MY OWN HANDS.
  • Which also means power over my DIET.
  • Power over my HEALTH.
  • Power over my POCKET.
  • Power over how much WASTE I am producing.
  • Enriching your life with MEANING – a kind of happiness that Greek philosopher, Socrates, termed ‘eudaimonia”

Seed saving is definitely subversive – that’s why I do it in disguise – in case the Seed Police turn up! (Personally, me old mate thought that I was just trying to channel Costa (Costa Georgiadis, presenter on ABC Gardening Australia)

EXAMPLE: SEEDS

For thousands of years of human agriculture, the intrinsic nature of SEED – the capacity to reproduce itself – prevented it from being easily commodified. Grown and resown over millennia by farmers and gardeners, seeds were freely exchanged and shared. That all changed in the 1990’s when laws were introduced to protect new bioengineered crops and slap patents on existing ones.

Today, four corporations – Bayer, Corteva, ChemChina and Limagrain – CONTROL 50% OF THE WORLDS SEEDS and dominate the global food supply.

Not only are the ways through which seeds can be exchanged and distributed narrowing. Seeds themselves are becoming less diverse. Between 1900 and 2000, 75% OF THE WORLD’S CROP VARIETIES DISAPPEARED. (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

This means that a huge wealth of locally adapted crops is being replaced by standardized varieties. This holds grave consequences for food security – especially as the planet heats up.

So, for this reason alone – it’s vitality important to not only grow that food BUT SAVE THAT SEED AND SHARE IT.

Do you want to be PART OF THE PROBLEM or PART OF THE SOLUTION?

These are choices we make all the time in our everyday lives – whether consciously or not. None of us are perfect, but we certainly all know by now that by being a switched on consumer we can reduce the waste we create and the footprint we make on this incredible planet, simply with the POWER we have IN OUR POCKET. This means choosing where we source our food from. Being part of that solution can also bring a great deal of SATISFACTION. You see how many HAPPINESS boxes we are ticking today?

The FREEDOM versus RESPONSIBILITY debate has been raging lately – along with COVID – and it has struck me that this ethical conundrum can also be related to food. I look at the ‘healthy lifestyle’ ‘life coach’ folk attempting on Instagram to portray their food shopping choices as ‘ideal’, something we should all aspire to – they then head home with it to make a ‘green smoothie’. But how ideal is this? This is a screenshot from one such post.

EXAMPLE: THE INDUSTRIALISATION OF OUR FOOD

So where do we go when the going gets tough? Political leaders would tell us to ‘go shopping’. But, you guessed it, it’s not as simple as that.

What do you see in this image of a shopping trolley full of food? Most of it is packaged? Probably hydroponic? Some of it imported WITH REALLY QUESTIONABLE NUTRITIONAL VALUE. So what does that ‘green smoothie’ really cost that they are about to make and post on Insta – the modern day ‘Influencers’?

FACT: Most pre-packaging of food in the supermarket is not done for ‘customer convenience’, as they would have you believe, but because it’s cheaper for them. Prepackaged food is cheaper to transport than that loose in boxes because they can transport it in soft-sided trucks. Fresh food in boxes has to be transported in solid sided trucks and that costs more money in fuel. Why else would you put bananas – that have have the most perfect sterile casing – into a cellophane bag?

FACT: Like many green vegetables, fresh peas can lose 50% of their nutrients within a week of harvesting.

FACT: The more food miles fresh produce travels – the less nutrition it contains. AND just because the food is labelled organic – it does not mean that it is nutritIous. It entirely depends on HOW IT WAS GROWN and HOW LONG AGO IT WAS PICKED.

FACT: Time and travel reduces vital nutrients. Spinach stored at room temperature loses between 50 and 90% of its Vitamin C within 24 hours of being picked. Are you beginning to get to get the idea of how good that homegrown parsley is beginning to taste, because I could go on and on – but I won’t?

I’ll just say Happy New Year and remember to look at gardening as a healthy gateway drug to other forms of freedom.

MY DAUGHTERS’ NEW PATCH. She has a really tiny backyard, but with some smart design and a packet or two of seeds she has begun to EMPOWER herself and feed her family. But, it really doesn’t matter how small a space you have – you can still grow some food. Got a windowsill – a nature strip – get crackin!

Find the shortest route between the earth, the hand and the mouth.”

Lanza del Vasto

(founder of the Slow Food Movement and inspiration for me to start this website so many moons and seeds ago)


Links to previous posts that may be of help
  1. My top ten tips for starting a food garden.

https://growfoodslowfood.com/2014/09/09/my-top-ten-tips-for-starting-food-garden/

2. Simple ways you can reduce your waste

https://growfoodslowfood.com/2018/07/03/the-plastic-habit-time-to-quit/

3. Seed saving and sowing – my top tips