When I was a little girl my grandparents had come off the dairy farm and moved into town. They had a large yard that consisted of a massive chicken yard with maybe 40 chickens and a rooster that woke us in the mornings. A huge vegetable garden, various fruit and citrus trees and a gigantic mulberry tree.
My Nan would pierce two holes in the side of an empty clean tin and thread string through the holes to make a shoulder strap so my sister and I could climb the tree with our tins over our shoulder and pick the mulberries.
My Nan made the best mulberry tarts on the planet. She would let us help with the pastry and we baked them in the wood burning stove. Mmmmmm, I still remember the smell of her kitchen. We would sit around the kitchen table eating fresh hot mulberry tarts and drinking weak tea.
We would take the kitchen scraps to the chook pen and collect the eggs. Nan would give us a wish list of what to pick in the vegie garden for tea. It kept us busy for hours because first we would eat all the ripe strawberries we could find, then collect the vegies, eating anything we wanted as we went.
Everything in their garden was recycled and organic, well before there was a term for it. I realise now, that’s where my love of vegetable gardens came from.
I was the second of 30 plus grandchildren for them and I certainly got the best of them while they were still young and active.
Because my parents had come off the farm, we were bought up with a very healthy diet. We had a salad of some kind every night, steamed veges, and grilled meat. There were no sauses or fried anything. And that is how I bought my children up and how I love to eat now, only I don’t bother to steam the veges.
When I was 25 and pregnant with my first son, my parents-in-law built a vegetable garden in our back yard for my husband and I. I had married a man of Greek origin, who came to Australia when he was 9. His parents had come from a small village in Greece. It was the first vegetable garden I had owned. My parents-in-law were very experienced gardeners and had the whole rotation system down pat.
That’s when I started to learn about the whole organic process because of course, my parents-in-law used no chemicals. They had knowledge of generations of gardeners and stuck to all the old ways. I loved them for it. We would encourage my children to pick what they wanted for dinner. We lived out of that garden and it helped struggling new parents make ends meet and satisfied my desire to feed my family the freshest and best quality produce I could.