I am renowned for my lack of gardening knowledge; green fingers are not in my repertoire. As a child I spent most of my time experimenting in the kitchen whilst my mother and sister pottered in the garden. The only way they could get me to join them was by suggesting we all made mud pies. The ultimate little tomboy, I could spend hours crafting imaginary treats in my tyre sandpit!
However, I have matured. I can appreciate walking outside and picking vegetables as well as edible flowers and herbs, as I please. There is no better aroma and flavour than a carrot, pulled from the earth, dusted off and followed by a big crunchy bite. We had a large vegetable garden when I was growing up. All the usual plants such as susu, vegetable pears, radishes, tomatoes, lettuce – and more – grew in wild abundance. Our cucumbers were short, fat and textured with depth of flavour, and our marrows could never be labelled ‘baby’.
Even though I lacked a caring aspect when it came to the garden, I have many fond memories of this space. It was my sister Sheldeen’s and my playground, or should I say my first teaching ground. Sheldeen is three years younger than me, so every day, when I returned from school, I would teach her the lessons I had learnt. We did this in the vegetable garden and I would stand with a large piece of chalk and wave my hands in front of a stand-up, V-shaped chalkboard. I believe the reason Sheldeen excelled at school is because of the many hours I spent teaching and training her, although she doesn’t agree!
My garden and the end result are, therefore, very important to me for reasons other than providing fresh, home-grown ingredients. This is where my teaching began. One of the requirements for Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine is that my learners bring a pair of gum boots on the course. They will be well used in these parts as I plan for us to go foraging in the forests and daily garden duties are included in the curriculum.
I like a wild garden, filled with vegetables, fruit, herbs and edible flowers. It saddens me when there is an overabundance in supply, no matter how much you give away. On the other hand, the beauty of strong, healthy plants appeals to my eye – nature is so very generous. It makes sense to have a garden that serves culinary purposes while being visually attractive. For me, what I can pop into the pot comes first, and that it can serve to please the eye of the beholder is an added benefit.
I recently visited the local garden show and I have made my way around every nursery in the area. I have looked at every pot in every size possible and every texture imaginable – and the simple rule is down to one very basic question: do I like it? It puzzles me that some people get designers to put the flair into their homes and gardens. I wouldn’t be happy with someone else advising me on a certain look and feel. Surely one’s own personality should shine through?
Right now, with my mother’s helping hands and her friend Glynis’ professional support, we are knee deep in soil. It is all about stepping out of one’s comfort zone and I’m confident that I shall reap the benefit of this ordeal. All I ask for is a flourishing, blossoming garden all year round. Who knows, I may even develop a love of gardening! Just as I am here to teach, I am also here to learn, so if you have any gardening tips please make contact with me. Here’s to living, learning – and growing.