I was thinking about the purposes of having a productive edible garden this morning as I ate my pre-breakfast, pre-study snack of passionfruit and apple. Which, by the way, was delicious!
People's reasons for gardening can be many and varied. For some, having a vegetable garden is purely a financial decision, driven by a need or desire to save money on food. At other times, it might have more to do with knowing what has gone onto your food, how it was grown, and trying for fresher, better quality than what might be available in the supermarket.
While both these reasons are very valid and part of my reasons for gardening, I have found another great reason for growing some of your own food. Variety. I happen to like variety. In fact, I get rather bored eating the same thing all the time. Boyo can happily eat weetbix every morning. I, on the other hand, like to have something different every day. Even if I have toast, it will have avocado and tomato one day, honey and peanut butter the next, and something else the following. So, I have concluded that variety is a good reason to grow your own food.
As I ate this morning, I noticed that we eat a much wider variety of food than we probably would if we were relying soley on the availability at our local supermarket. My salads are very rarely just lettuce. Instead, an average salad will usually contain greens from several types of lettuce, plus silverbeet (nicer fresh than cooked, I think!), spinach, beetroot, parsley and other herbs. Not only does this make for a more interesting visual and palatable meal, but each plant can provide different nutrients for us.
I see a similar picture in the fruit department. Over the past few weeks the fruit bowls have held bananas, nectarines and plums from the supermarket, which is a perfectly acceptable palette of fruit for this time of year. But when you add the raspberries, a few strawberries still fruiting, the Golden Delicious just starting to harvest, and passionfruit from the next door neighbour, suddenly we have a smorgasboard of fresh fruit!
Pears developing - this photo was taken in December.
My parents garden (which is where I garden) is not large. It is a suburban garden, with somewhere around 700m2 of land we think. Now the house and front yard take up more than half of that, plus there's a whole lot of lawn and a clothesline out the back as well as the vegetable gardens and fruit trees. But still, within this space we are able to grow a surprisingly wide variety of food. We start the fruit season off in November with deliciously tasty strawberries. Then, next year as they finish, we should have Christmas raspberries. February has seen standard autumn fruiting raspberries, Golden Delicious apples and next year hopefully passionfruit (our vines are still small so we'll see, but the neighbour is always generous either way!). Next up will be the red grapes and brown pears as we head into autumn properly. The Golden Delicious will probably keep fruiting right through till April to be joined by feijoas (although the tree doesn't get good pollination, we do at least get a few to eat). Then during winter, there's the mandarin and of course, the faithful old lemon tree. Oh, and I forgot to mention the Babaco. I'll need another post to rave about that, but this shorter relative of Papaya (Pawpaw) is delicious fresh or stewed and used to be grown by my grandfather...now my dad and uncle both grow it.
So can you see how a small backyard can provide so much variety, especially when combined with the offerings of supermarket or farmers market? We are eating fruit that we otherwise would be unlikely to buy, such as raspberries and passionfruit, as well as having some trusty standards like the mandarins to fill the gaps. And you know what, it is tasty and nutritious and I love knowing that we 'grew it ourselves!'