Scary stories from a lovely place
We’ve been consuming a lot of gardening books around here lately. Every time I visit the library compelling titles keep jumping off the shelves into my eager little hands. I’ve been cramming all sorts of gardening information into my brain; how to improve soil, no dig gardens, food forests, potagers, perennials, espaliered fruit trees and all manner of manure and compost.
I’ve really enjoyed this diversion from Thomas the Tank Engine and building endless block towers. I’ve definitely learned a lot, but am also feeling more unsure about whether or not I should pursue gardening, namely growing edible plants for me and the fam. Gardening itself is such a pure exploit and even if we just duck outside and pull a few weeds I feel all the better for it.
But as for the edible food gardening I am concerned about the basics economics of it. It seems like it could get bloody expensive, once seeds have been raised, the soil improved and mulched, the plants fertilised and water applied. I know there are benefits, like eating food that tastes better than store bought stuff, avoiding chemical or genetic interference and the simple pride that comes from self sufficiency. But, as with other aspects of ethical eating, I worry that these are luxuries to be afforded by the middle class, and when considered from purely a fiscal point of view, growing an edible garden doesn’t make sense. I’m still trying to figure it all out, and probably the best answers will come if and when I have an opportunity to try.
In the meantime one little book I got recently from the library is providing somewhat of a relief to my wonderings. It’s called ‘The Weed Forager’s Handbook: a guide to edible and medicinal weeds in Australia’ and it’s written by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland, two full time food foragers. For a while I have wondered if foraging could be the cheap solution to my issues with edible gardening. Unfortunately I haven’t known where to start. There was a stray mandarin tree near my old house but it’s fruit was always mouldy on the tree, surely a bad sign. In Ireland it was easy to enjoy blackberries from wild vines every day on our walks, but here most of them seem to be sprayed.
Thanks to Grubb and Raser-Rowland’s knowledge I’ve been enjoying a few shoots of Plantain and a leaf or two of wild Amaranth that seem to be all around me. I am looking forward to seeking out some of the other varieties, like Chickweed, Dandelions, Fat hen and wild Brassicas. Yesterday I grabbed some young wild fennel (it only grows the leaves, not the bulbous root) and added it in abundance to last night’s quiche. It was lovely.