Growing your own...Naturally!

I love cooking healthy, delicious and nutritious meals to joyously feast on.   However, the continuous press bombardment of increased cost of living, foreseen shortages and ongoing “blah-di-blah-di blah” are causing a lumpy frog in my throat. My weekly trip to the local supermarket makes it more and more difficult to swallow that “frog” when I take in the “amount due” reflecting on the till screen. 

Strutting out of the supermarket, pushing a trolley, not because the shopping bags are heavy, but more because my knees are wobbly from utter disbelief and shock, I decided, enough is enough!!  I am in desperate need of a solution. “My dear,” I said to myself. “From now on we will fast…no more feasting!” Yip! I already hear my dear family members’ “no-way” objections. Dropping that unattainable notion, I decided that the only solution is to start growing my own. 

Well, let it be known that I don’t have space for a cow, chickens and some sheep, but I do have a fair amount of patio space.  Well, “fair amount of space” is a bit of an exaggeration, but I have enough space to work with, albeit no “protein”.  Now, where should I start? Good question! I read: “The key factor is planning.”  So, my goal should be to plan sufficiently, not just for wholesome fresh summer meals, but also to stock up, to last through all four seasons. Ultimately influencing my planning depends firstly on my available space, and whether or not I plan to share with a circle of friends and family, or just provide nourishment for my household. Ah! But,  you know!  Sharing is caring, they say! 

Having decided on the crops I want to grow and when to grow them, I also drafted a schedule on what to harvest and when. Not wanting to waste anything, I researched some excellent preservation options. This is possibly one of the most exciting projects that I have taken on in a long time. Ideally, I would want to have a continual supply of crops. Growing nutrient-dense vegetables that produce abundantly, is key. My decision is based on two types of crops:  Crops that provides a harvest throughout the year and seasonal crops that produce abundantly during a particular season. Certain crops can even be grown indoors or outdoors!

Being a creative mind, I need interesting varieties, which will add colour, texture and loads of nutrition. 

An ode to the Tomato!

 

I am absolutely addicted to tomatoes. These warm weather crops produce abundantly and are easy to preserve in several ways. The White cherry tomato, sweet and neat scarlet tomato, and chocolate cherry tomato are on the top of my list.  My space is limited, and this will yield a perfect crop. I would have an abundance of fresh tomatoes for Summer and equally enough to preserve into jams and relish. You can even toss them into a Ziploc bag and into the freezer or use them whole in stews and with roast veggies.

Spinach, the food of Giants

 I remember bribing my son into eating his spinach by using the ever popular  “Popeye the Sailor Man”. As much as I hate bribery, it worked! Singing this old song was also my mom’s way to get us to “endure” spinach. There are so many creative ways of eating spinach and there are so many interesting varieties and ways to prepare healthy spinach-based meals. This  cool weather crop produces continually. I will plant Matador baby spinach, which, tossed in fresh salad or served with an English Muffin and poached egg, is just scrumptious. Viroflay Spinach, also known as “Monstrueux de Viroflay”, is a crunchy sweet and dark green variety, enjoyed both fresh and steamed. One should never overcook spinach as it contains water soluble vitamins that are easily washed away when overcooked. Rainbow Spinach and Bright Lights Swiss Chard is an obvious choice for me.  I just love the colour. Just chop your Swiss chard, blanche for 2 – 3 minutes and store in your freezer in portion size parcels.

The buttery and nutty: “Butternut”

 

You can do so much with butternut! – Life without these amazing and versatile lovelies would have no meaning for me! Butternut squash is a warm weather crop and produces abundantly. For the purposes of my small space, I am going to plant honeynut butternut.  They grow beautifully in containers and are loaded with Vitamin A and Vitamin C. I would chop these in half and freeze them in a Ziploc bag for all year use.

Bunny “Chow” – the Carrot

My potato! The ever popular CARROT will definitely have a grand spot in both my heart and my patio garden!! Once again, cooking with colour and creativity, my obvious choice, rainbow carrots, will enhance every plate!  Slightly steamed, roasted or fresh! I absolutely love the earthy sweetness of carrots! The Parisian carrot is an absolute cutie and a must for me.  These short and round carrots have a crisp juicy texture. They grow well in shallow soil and are ideal for container planting. Absolutely no question about adding the interesting deep purple and orange coloured carrot. I mean, have you ever seen anything this beautiful?

 The Cabbage Patch family

 The only positive memory I ever had of cabbage was my precious Cabbage Patch Doll!! Like having to bribe young ones with eating spinach, the same applies to cabbage! Unfortunately, there were no superheroes who lived off cabbage, hence no way to bribe any of the young ones into eating it. I must admit that I honestly did not like the way my mom and granny used to cook smelly cabbage! Luckily, we all grow up and have since fallen in love with these lovelies! You will always find a head of cabbage in my fridge! The food revolution led the way to healthy and nutritional eating and dollying-up cabbage by including it in salads, roasts, stir fries and soups, etc., surely compliments a meal in more ways than ever imagined! Naturally being totally in love with baby vegetables of all sorts, I selected the Baby Green Rapidion Cabbage and the Baby Red Omero Cabbage! However, there are still so many from to choose from! 

Oh! Sergeant Pepper!

Pick your choice because the options are endless! Having so many favourites, I will have to choose carefully! Once again, loving all things baby (veggies), I choose Tinkerbell® baby block sweet peppers. I will be planting the Purple, Orange, Red and Yellow peppers! There are so many interesting ways  to preserve these

The glory of the Leafy Greens

 

Last, but not the least…no plated kingdom can survive without salad greens! Although the choices are endless and I am about to get carried away, I must pause and remind myself: “Your SPACE, darling”! Well, all said and done, it has to be the Wonder Wok Salad Leaf Mix which is a mix of Asian greens including mustards, kale and bok choy and the scrumptious,  City Garden Salad Leaf Mix, which is a mix of red and green lettuces. 

The next chapter…

So! Voila! I have decided! Hoping that I did not over-estimate my space, the next phase is drafting a diagram with my space planning. An absolutely exciting weekend ahead of me. Deciding on the correct size planters, irrigation, growing media, and nutrients. I am admittingly beyond excited about my endeavour and will be sure to share the next phase with you!

About the Author

Michele Fourie is the Seeds for Africa General Manager. Michele loves growing beautiful flowers, chilli plants and is passionate about exceptional customer. service. Michele is also a fundi in the kitchen. Check out her blog post on making your own sweet pickled piquant cherry peppers at this link.