Saturday, March 6, 2010


I have a theory (not my own, needless to say) that the best veggie patch simply contains the things you eat the most, and some things that just taste a million times better when homegrown.
I would never buy silver beet, for example, unless I was desperate to bake a spanakopita. But home grown silver beet - or rainbow chard - is like a different creature altogether.
So when planning your edible garden, you can grade things in terms of how many times a week you and your household eat them. I like Sarah Raven's idea of having three grades (daily, weekly and occasional consumption) and then you plan your percentage of space and plantings around those ratios, especially for the annuals. Most of your space and attention goes to the food you eat most often.
Of course there are some plants (rhubarb and globe artichokes, for example) that take up a consistent amount of space but they do pay their way. Perennial herbs are the same.
So at this time of year we spend most of our time and water on tomatoes, salads and basil because that's what we eat daily. We devote a fair amount of space to eggplants and raspberries, and I've been trying to keep a fair bit of beetroot underway because we can then eat it year round.
All planned. Mostly works, although I haven't been so great at the successive salads sowing.
But why O why then do I get sucked into trying the odd new thing?
I had the best of intentions with the Warrigal greens. Perennial spinach has got to be a good thing, and then it seems to be bush tucker both here and in NZ, indeed it's often called New Zealand spinach, so it seemed like a good idea. I should have known when the Kiwi told me she'd never heard of it. But I read all about it in a few places, got some seeds, it came up reliably and I was sure I was onto a good thing.
Nobody told me it tastes like soap.
Disgusting stuff. Don't bother growing it.
Finally (too late) I read the sad truth in Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion, the new Bible of the Kitchen Garden. Stephanie can barely muster enough words to bother encouraging people to grow it.
Then I had read about pepinos. Those Gardening Australia blokes are always going on about them, so I was a bit curious, and one promised they taste like rock melon. Sounds gorgeous, right? So I saw a plant at the Kevin Heinz Centre sale and thought it would be a fine investment. Lavished months of care and water on it. Harvested my first one yesterday.
Tastes like cucumber.
I hate cucumber.
So I look it up (too late - see a theme developing here?) in the Bible of home fruit growing, Susan Lyle's Discovering Fruit and Nuts and discovered, you'll be astonished to learn, that they taste like cucumber. Sweet cucumber, but cucumber, nevertheless.
Morals of the story?
Grow what you like to eat.
Experimentation sucks.
Check with a woman first.