Growing fruit and vegetables at home is hardly a new phenomenon. But over the past couple of years there has been a real surge in popularity of home grown produce. It’s been reported that in response to the Global Financial Crisis, the popularity of home gardens has risen in some areas of New Zealand by up to 22% and this trend now is extending far beyond our own backyards.
The advantages of home grown produce are being recognised across the world. A recent survey of 2000 American chefs found one third of them identified restaurant gardens as the most popular trend for 2010. Not only does restaurant-grown produce cost less, but more and more of their customers want to know where their food comes from, and what better way to show them than to take them out to the restaurant garden?
An example closer to home of this resurrection, is the Garden to Table pilot programme, which started in several Auckland schools last year. The programme aims to teach children to grow and harvest produce and prepare meals using what they’ve grown. It was modelled on the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Programme – Stephanie Alexander is a pioneer in food education for children and is visiting Auckland later this month.
The Enviroschools network, which works with one quarter of all schools and kura in New Zealand, has empowered schools to plant their own gardens, as part of their focus on “nourishing our natural systems” since the late 1990s. It’s been wonderful to see schools across a range of deciles getting involved, and now the Garden to Table project is closing the loop by also bringing in cooking skills. Along with teaching children gardening and cooking skills which can be taken home, the children are given the opportunity to enjoy sharing meals with their classmates, teachers and volunteers, and enjoy the social time that comes with sharing a meal – something that is equally important in developing lifelong healthy attitudes towards food.
The resurgence of home grown produce can only be a positive thing, both for the environment, our communities and hopefully our waistlines. However, we mustn’t feel guilty about purchasing fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables from the supermarket. For most of us this is still a necessity, especially for produce the average home gardener would be challenged to have on hand year-round! It’s also important to take a practical attitude towards growing produce and plan ahead to ensure you can use what you grow. My flatmates and I created a vege garden last year, but just as all our produce flourished, we went away on holiday. By the time we got back, our broccoli had flowered and our herbs had been attacked by slugs!
If you don’t have access to home grown produce, the next best thing may be the hundreds of fruit trees and other edible morsels dotted on public land throughout New Zealand! Check out the map to find the nearest one to you!