I feel like I’ve written a few negative posts of late - posts about the down sides of gardening – the pests and annoyances. Today though I thought I’d look at the up side – the benefits of kitchen gardening. This year I am keeping a record of how much I spend on the garden and how much I save in vegetable costs. This record keeping is fraught though as I would love to think I’m saving money but it will take a while to cover the cost of those dwarf citrus….Actually if I don’t include them then I am currently in the black so far this year but having just come through my most productive time of the year I would want to be.
Just in case it all goes wrong and I actually end up spending more than I save I thought it would be a good idea to re-iterate to myself the non-monetary reasons why having a kitchen garden is a really good idea.
1. Constant access to fresh ingredients – particularly herbs and flavourings: I am something of a foodie, I enjoy food and most of all I enjoy fresh food. There are few things I find more irritating* than not being able to cook what I want to, when I want to and having herbs etc in the garden enables me to do that. For a good proportion of each year I have: Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime, Bay leaves, Parsley, Chervil, Oregano, Thyme, Mint, Thai Basil, Tarragon, Chives, Garlic Chives, Sage, Basil, Coriander and Curry Leaves. If you add to that the veggies that I tend to grow year round: Beetroot, Celery, Chard & Lettuce then you’ve got the basis for a heap of soups, stocks, and salads ready and waiting in the garden.
*Actually I probably could name quite a few things that irritate me if pushed: queues, slow internet connections, most people who call in to talk back radio, Sam Newman, not being able to fit into the jeans I wore as a teenager etc etc etc.
2. I eat more vegetables – My theory is that if I’ve gone to all the trouble to grow it then I will actually cook and eat it - as opposed to it sitting in my fridge until it goes floppy and gets thrown out – which I have to admit being guilty of on more than one occasion. Having a kitchen garden means that I am more likely to base a meal around a vegetable/s and as a result I eat more of them. The other advantage is that gluts mean I am constantly widening my repertoire of meals I cook. Once you’ve made you 2 eggplant recipes and you’ve still got crops coming in its time to get creative and actually try something new.
3. Kids - I always find those sections in books detailing the merits of gardening on children a little cringe worthy. They invariably use really sentimental language about connecting kids with nature and understanding where our food comes from and all that. Not that I don’t think these things are important – I do hugely, its just that if I’m honest my kids would gain that knowledge even without our kitchen garden as my parents live on a farm and their school has a veggie patch and chooks. What they do get out of my garden though is fresh fruit and vegetables (they get very excited whenever they find a ripe strawberry). But even better they have access to a large variety of bugs, and a mother who is always either trying to encourage more of them (bees and ladybirds etc) or trying to get rid of them. As a result they have learnt a lot about bugs. Good bugs, bad bugs, where they live, how to catch them and how to avoid them.
Incidentally while we’re on the subject of children and kitchen gardens I do think that all those people who tell you kids will eat something they’ve grown themselves are speaking absolute crap. A kid that doesn’t like pumpkin isn’t going to like it because they put the seed in the ground. They might claim it as theirs, play football with it, or carve it for Halloween but in my experience they still don’t eat it.
4. Sense of Achievement: I am a stay-at-home mum and although that has many benefits, achievements can be few and far between. Sure I can occasionally get the kids to go to bed on time, or to pick up 3 of the 700 items that litter the floor, or to stop biting other kids at playgroup. But I tend to think of these things with a sense of relief rather than pride or achievement. Its just not the same as: hitting your monthly sales target, getting your online training material signed off, going live with the L&D system or whatever other achievements used to fill my days in those that preceded kids. I have long sections on my CV detailing them but strangely I can remember very few off the top of my head…..
With gardening you can have achievements all the time though - lots of them; the daily herb harvest, the big pile of potatoes, the happy ever-producing cucumbers, even the almost dead but still going..just…tomatoes. Sure there are failures but that doesn’t bother me because I still get satisfaction from those that do work.
5. Knowing what goes into & onto your food – I have to admit that when I buy vegetables I don’t usually buy organic ones – although I know ideologically I should. Growing my own means I get organic without the high cost which means I have one less thing to have parental angst about – which frankly is a huge plus in my world.
And there was my Top 5, and I haven’t even mentioned food miles which is also a huge plus too. What would you include in yours?
Looking for more 5′s then head on over to The New Goodlife to see what she is thinking about this week.