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The power of the garden.

April 9, 2008

At the Royal Easter Show * with my Mama. (Thanks to my sister Ms B for the photograph).

*When the country comes to the city. It’s the major agricultural show/fair in our state.

I grew up with a backyard veggie garden. To be honest, I was not always so fond of it nor as proud of it nor as grateful for it, as I am now. I wanted an in-ground swimming pool like the neigbours had. As children, we did not pay enough attention to what our parents were doing out there and we used to beg our mother to buy iceberg lettuces instead, but our parents continued to grow food at home, give away surplus, swap seeds – this left its mark. That garden helped feed us and to keep us healthy. The garden and our mama still does.

The imprint of that garden is evident in all the things I hold dear to me – family, good health, good food, generosity. Michael Symons in One Continuous Picnic calls the backyard garden the haven of suburban rustics- this in no way is meant to be derogatory. In this book, he chronicles food history in Australia from the time of us whiteys being here. The pattern that emerges is that Australian eating, has always been supported by some kind of industrial process; be it the British Empire or cheap fossil fuels. Food has always travelled to the population and we expect that. There has never been a peasant class, save for the Dungaree Settlers in the Hawkesbury and the suburban rustics! For the majority of the population, the link between work, the land and food has been displaced (or actively avoided!!!) Indigenous cultures in Australia obviously understand this link – in ways better suited to this landscape too – and shamefully, we have learnt little from them… included. If anyone out there knows anything about bush tucker in the Blue Mountains, please let me know.

If you can grow food where you live, even in a window box or a small container, I cannot urge you enough to do it. Grow. Grow. Grow. Do not under estimate the effect this simple and sustaining action will have on those around you. My youngest sister lives in London and until very recently, she has shown very little, almost no interest in gardening but with her birthday coming up….and when asked by us, if there was anything she might like for a present (give us some idea please!!!), she said “Anything that would help me with a garden.” My mother did not thrust her arms into the air with victory, however she knows now, that all her children know, that every home needs a garden especially a kitchen garden. She also knows skills can be learnt, if the willingness and enthusiasm are there.

On related matters, this appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. Thanks Helen for emailing me the link.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2008 12:15 pm

    That’s a really nice photo – how lucky we are to have had families that grew food. They’re planting bush tucker up at the school garden, and are there every Friday afternoon if you want to find out more.

  2. Ms K permalink
    April 10, 2008 4:02 pm

    Name inspiration derived from Ms B – sister no. 3.

    Yes. I think I have a difficult path ahead, or should I say ‘garden’ path (cringe!). First victim – the bamboo. Next, who knows? Thanks for the garden implements Ms B! Couldn’t have a better family to learn from.

  3. April 10, 2008 9:18 pm

    Lis: Thanks for info. I’ll be checking it out.
    Ms K: I think if you can work out how you killed the bamboo, you might be able to offer good advice to all those who’d like to control the invasive plant. xx

  4. April 17, 2008 4:39 am

    Hi Nada,

    do you remember when I commented on a photo you’d taken of a seed head? You said it was dianella. I told you dianella is edible.
    I’ve since found out more. At first I thought the plant you took a pic of was conostylis, but I was wrong. I’ve since found out the plant is Haemodorum, common name Bloodroot. I took this photo of a WA Haemodorum Does this look like the plant you found? If so, the red tuber is edible. (it would be a diff species in NSW, but should still be edible). It’s illegal to pick native plants, but you could probably find NSW dianella and Haemodorum at a native plant nursery.

    With the tuber of dianella, Aboriginal people would pound it and then roast it. I have the NSW dianella growing in my garden. pic of the flower I’ve never tried eating the root, but I’m getting a WA dianella, which I’m hoping will spread a bit more so I don’t have to kill the whole plant to harvest the root. I’m also getting a WA Haemodorum for my garden which I hope to try too.

    And seed of any acacia can be ground into flour and made into damper. flour from different acacias can be mixed.

    I found out these things from my friend who has a native plant nursery and has learnt from a WA aboriginal elder. I’ve never tried any, but i want to.

    Cheers, Clare.

  5. April 17, 2008 4:44 am

    And I forgot another plant, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonoides). Despite the name its native to Australia (and NZ too). It grows rampantly if you plant it in the garden, so pruning is necessary. You use the leaves as you would spinach, ie spinach pie, etc. There are other speices of Tetragonia that aren’t native to Australia, but are weeds here, so make sure you check the name if you buy it. The Diggers club sells it and I’m sure other places do too.

  6. April 17, 2008 10:16 pm

    ClareSnow: I’m going to definitely get some of that. thanks.

  7. April 18, 2008 3:17 am

    I just found a blog with some links about bushtucker in Victoria There might be some of the same plants where you live.

    Yesterday I wrote two comments. I think the other one is in your moderation queue because I put links in it.

  8. April 19, 2008 1:25 am

    Clare: Thanks for that. Acacia seeds you can definitely crush up into a flour. After they flower this year, I might collect a few and try this. The plant I thought was dianella, wasn’t…isn’t, it just had very similar strappy leaves and yes, it does look like Haemodorum. I checked my reference book and it is either H. planifolium (Strap-leaf Bloodroot) or H.corymbosum (Rush-leaf Bloodroot). I had never seen them before. I have dianella growing in my yard and once it flowered, I realised that the flower heads were different to the other plant. Should correct the old post. The leaves of my dianella are reddy green and once they flower, they develop purple berries. They’ve popped up on their own, in strange places….I can’t work out what conditions suit them best needless to say, the soil is low in nutrients!

    Thanks for all the bush tucker references.


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