After years growing stuff in different backyards I reckon the great quest is to synchronise your vegetable and herb patch activities with you kitchen needs.
Not absolutely as if ruled by some hippiefied 'self sufficiency' dogma...but fulfilling enough in the sense of having freshly harvested comestibles on hand as a daily option.
I know we all say that's what we aspire to do, but allowing the garden to be ruled by the kitchen is a culinary and horticultural art. The more I relate to this challenge the more I respect its complexity and nuances...and the hard yards.
It's not agriculture. I don't want to grow heaps of stuff so that I drown in a succession of surpluses or spend my indoor time preserving.
I want what I eat when I want to eat it while deferring to the seasons.
I don't want to grow too much -- nor do I want to grow too little -- of what my kitchen needs. The soil and the weather may be fickle -- even brutal -- but kitchen gardening isn't just about growing food, so much about what and when.
I find that deciding what to plant to harvest when I need it is the baseline challenge.
Some stuff I eat daily. Other foods I cook with occasionally. Others are an exotic delight. Starchy foods keep. Greens don't.
My take is that a kitchen garden has to be absolutely polycultural and layered with successive plantings of a huge array of different herbs and vegetables. Rather than relying only a few veg you need to cultivate many. Not one green to be had but several. More than one starch. Optional herbs.The cook -- c'est moi -- has to have choices.
While there is no substituting a tomato...there are, after all, many types of tomatoes.
..and you can make do, too.
Tail wagging the dog.
With all due respect to the chefs of this world the tyranny of THE RECIPE must now and then bow to reality. The cook book that matters is the one whose ingredients can be grown outback in your own dirt.
It's a case of the tail wagging the dog.
"What shall we eat today?" is best answered by walking through your own vegey patch.
And therein rests one of the great delights of living and gardening in South East Queensland. The sub tropics are not always kind to ye ole temperate fair. Our climatic 'zoning' encourages us to look to other cuisines because we can grow more of what they eat than what has been the European tradition.
Indeed, if we were to try to define the Brisbane Kitchen Garden it surely would differ greatly from those down south. We have a much longer growing season for so many vegetables. The seasons impact less on our choices. We may suffer from heat and humidity but we do have our work arounds.
Our kitchen gardens -- if we want to indulge ourselves -- could be unique.
We've got all this locally bred Permaculture lore bearing down on us. Our urban context is rich in multicultural flavours. We are pulled hither and yon by the traditional horticultures of South East Asia, Melanesia and Polynesia. We can grow -- hypothetically -- almost any type of annual. Generally, we are more aggressively experimental than local industrial agriculture in the stuff we plant out and harvest.
We are exploring a huge range of plants and learning how to grow and cook them.
If you go explore 'kitchen gardens' country by country -- and Kitchen Gardens International does this as does the FAO-- you'd be surprised how much of niche we occupy.
While I think we are a tad bullied by the Permaculture template with its deference to perennial plants and 'food forests' -- i reckon our kitchen gardens are fostering a dynamic that has yet to mature.
Just consider what's available in the supermarket to what you could be growing outback...Sure their tubers may be bigger than yours, their celery crisper, their lettuces cleaner..but you may be growing stuff that they don't even know about.
And it's all fresh.
But is it cheaper?
Once upon a time folk 'kitchen gardened' to save money and feed themselves. Today, that sort of 'dig-for-victory' approach may seem dated. I mean Australian agriculture is so efficient and the produce is so cheap -- why grow your own?
Of course there is the no sprays and organic argument. Given the price and availability of organic produce it is indeed cheaper to grow your own...But what about more generally? Is feeding yourself from what you grow set to reduce your food bill significantly?
I've wondered about that, and this is certainly another conundrum. If I can get a veg for $4/kgm can I indeed actually grow it cheaper?
While every thing may be relative, my experience has been that if you reduce your inputs -- ie: stay away from Bunnings -- and 'fertilise' organically, your outback balance sheet will be ahead of optional supermarket outlays.
That is so long as you don't give your self a day labouring wage. Your hours of toil don't count.
That's the irony. When you grow most of your own stuff you don't have to go shopping.
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