1.Who I am and what I do:
- Herbologist: I specialise in herbs and salad plants – the soft leafy veggies that have been grown everywhere on kitchen windowsills since time immemorial.
- My Ethos: Hippocrates: “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food.” Use freshly harvested minerals and vitamins wherever possible.
- Herbs come in so many varieties and most have not been “tinkered” with by food producers, so retain their very individual tastes and effects when grown as they were meant to be! (more on this in a moment)
- I love food! I regard cooking as a creative process. Constructing a meal starts first and foremost in the garden. Like painting a picture or composing a piece of music, except that herbs are my palette – the taste, aroma and texture, colour and form, harmony, resonance and unity or even high notes or discordant ones to delight or shock both the eye and the palate – this is what I see.
- The special joy is that “ a little goes a long way” – you can make ‘stuff’!! So what one may lose in quantity one makes up for in ingenuity. So a few Basil plants, for instance, give me Basil mayonnaise, Basil vinegar or oil, Basil pesto, a Strawberry and Basil granita, or a Basil mojito, and that’s before even considering putting it into sauces – a bolognaise sauce cannot live without it – or adding it to a myriad of other dishes. Interesting thing about Basil – just as an aside – it is very calming and sleep inducing – so working feverishly with tons of it tend to make one sleepy! – a clue – a tea could be used to great effect to help one relax and sleep! It is also a great digestive aid and help to assimilate our food.
- The time has come to eat the garnish and not waste the precious herbs. Imagine using a little Rosemary to make a syrup with say Rooibos tea that can be drizzled over a pudding, or Lavender in tiny little cupcakes- the flowers delicately flavouring the icing, or make your own liqueurs with fig leaves, lemon verbena or even viola petals. Thyme doesn’t always have to ‘go with’ meat but can be used to flavour a crumbly dough used to make a sweet apricot jam tart.
The sky is the limit – as they say!
2. The Bigger Picture:
- Our current concerns are around climate change, pollution, food security, carbon footprints, food miles, GM foods, pesticide use and residues, nutrition and biodiversity – just to name a few.
- Bill Mollison – the Father of Permaculture put it very succinctly when he stated: “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple”. In this case – “grow your own”! and learn to use it well.
- The urban landscape presents a challenging environment for farming or food production on any meaningful scale, that is, to be self-sufficient or produce sufficient quantities is often regarded as an insurmountable obstacle or an impossibility.
- Space, time and money are always at a premium.
- Food is being commercially manipulated to accommodate long distance travel, long shelf life in supermarkets and homes, and is also made bigger (super-sized) due to our (really odd) notion that ‘bigger must be better’.
3. Benefits of home/own grown food – what I can do for you:
- You can’t necessarily grow EVERYTHING, but you can grow SOME things or a least be self-sufficient in ONE or TWO things.
- Herbs and salad plants are definitely the easiest and most accommodating. Grown in just about any container they are hardy, and basically have their own built-in pest control – that wonderful taste and smell. A lot of our salad plants that are being commercially produced and are big, beautiful and – tasteless! A symptom of over use of nitrogenous fertilisers – the cells are large and full of water –
- The quality of home or own grown food is superior to anything commercially grown.
- Carbon miles through long distance travelling are reduced to zero.
- Within the urban landscape we find fewer pests –(there’s less food!). With a vertical wall of plants most of the soil pests are not an issue. So the use of pesticides is either reduced or non-existent, thereby reducing our concern about residues and pollution.
- Produce can be grown organically using only natural fertilisers.
- Vertical gardens are obviously great on saving space, as well as water.
- Drip irrigation as well as passive irrigation (water slowly trickling through from the top level to the bottom) minimises water wastage.