Gardening - Grow what you like
Fri, 04 Jun 2010 11:25a.m.
If you are going to start or expand a vegetable garden it is useful to think about what you want out of it.
If you have a hankering for a regular swede supply in Dargaville or a sub-tropical orchard in Winton, then you need to either revisit your goals or move.
For the most part what I grow is shaped by what I like as well as by the foibles of Dunedin’s climate.
I garden because I am greedy, broke, and have an irrational fear of Farmers’ Markets.
If I want to cook interesting vegetables then I am going to have to grow them myself or steal them from someone who does.
There are a few plants that are must-haves in my garden. I need to have fresh herbs. The most important part of my herb garden is “Thyme-Square”; a patch of four different thyme varieties.
I also grow rosemary, sage, oregano, and chives. I try to grow parsley but barely a bouquet garni is grown before the plants run to seed.
There are also a few plants that are I-believe-I-must-haves in my garden.
The most notable is my Bay Tree. This was the first significant purchase I made for my kitchen garden.
Bay goes in stock, stews, and those Hassleback Potatoes that always look so enticing in 1970s cookbooks. I thought no one who likes to cook should be without ready access to bay leaves.
My prior dealings with Bay had consisted mainly of throwing the dried up leaves from ye-olde herb packets into bubbling pots of soup or stew.
As it turned out, the only flavour that I was adding was a certain cardboardy-mustiness.
When I first used a fresh bay leaf I was astounded at the difference in flavour. Astounded and horrified.
Fresh bay has a pungent herbaceous aroma that masks everything else. It turns out I loathe the bay leaf.
I hate its taste, I hate its smell. It is a herb-of-horror.
Like many edible plants one dislikes, the Bay has flourished. Planted in boggy clay, receiving only an occasional pruning, and even less frequent spraying for rust spots, this is a plant that doesn’t quit.
Although the bay tree is a culinary failure it is still a plant I am happy to have in my garden.
I get to give it away, practice topiary, and admire its shiny leaves. I just do not view it as part of my edible garden.
Anyone starting a vegetable garden is going to make the odd bay-tree purchase.
I have made more than one.
I currently have a lot of kale that I am never going to acquire a taste for. The swedes I grew last year will never reappear in my repertoire and I wanted to enjoy fennel far more than I actually did.
For every miss in my garden there have been far more hits.
Cavolo nero, kailaan, purple sprouting broccoli, fresh sweet baby garlic, and carrots-of-many colours are all wonderful vegetables that I would never have tried had I not grown them.
Because I do not garden solely for myself I also choose to plant things to which I am not partial.
I grow another herb-of-horror, the insecticidal-tasting coriander, so that others can use it as a garnish.
I have blueberries because my family love them and I grow broad beans for friends that enjoy them.
Whether you have a quarter acre to plant or a couple of 99 cent buckets, consider what you and yours like to eat as well as what grows well in your area.
Finally, for the price of a packet of seeds, take the occasional risk- you never know what delicacy you may uncover.
The bay tree gets three trowels out of five, but a moment taken to plan your garden gets five out of five.
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