6 Oct 2012

Book review: 'The Edible Balcony'

Have been re-reading Indira Naidoo’s lovely ‘The Edible Balcony', and I wanted to capture some of her beautiful, inspirational and ‘keep it real’ words:
  • ‘You’ll weep at your failures, but gloat over your success… growing your own food is a magnificent addiction’ (actually from Peter Cundall)
  • ‘You can’t grow everything you eat, but you can eat everything you grow’
  • ‘Try and use something you have grown yourself in every meal you cook at home’ (or that Dad has grown?)
  • ‘Only grow what you like to eat’
I'm inspired and excited by Indira’s book. She talks about the disconnect between us and our food: how we have moved away from the Aussie tradition of a backyard vegie garden with a lemon tree. When I was growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, we had the garden and lemon (and an orange and grapefruit tree too, I’m sure); I can picture the small space clearly.

In this modern world, gardening (whether it's flowers or vegies) offers up ‘tangibility’. For me, who spends the day thinking, editing and writing with words and ideas and emails, the physicality of digging a garden bed, weeding out and watering – of generally getting my hands dirty – is a huge attraction. A need, even. After spending much of this week in an airless, orange conference room, today I spent hours in the garden doing all these things - weeding, watering, topping up mulch around the savoys, squishing snails, staking errant hollyhocks. Even though the day was cool and overcast, it all needed to be done - not just for the sake of my cabbages or hollyhocks, but for my sanity.

It’s not always relaxing – some jobs can be frustrating, back-breaking (indeed, right now my back has that dull ache from bending over) and tear-inducing, as Peter mentions above. My much-anticipated sugarloaf cabbages are either bolting to seed, or riddled with caterpillar holes. I'll be lucky to get three good heads.

Indira's books also ticks thru the issues of taste, seasonality, local food and food miles, and processed western diets. I connected with so much of what she wrote. Here are some more quotes that I needed to record:
  • ‘Delayed gratification is what edible gardening is all about’
  • ‘The wonderful thing about gardening – it teaches you to be present and attentive. It makes you stop and focus on something that is outside of yourself’
  • ‘We need to be reminded in our busy lives that everything has a time and a purpose’
The photo above shows you the scene on my sunroom table. A collection of seeds yet to be planted - I've decided to wait a few more weeks to stagger my harvests.

The pretty speckled beans are borlottis that I saved last summer - I love eating the fresh green beans but, as so often happens in the hotter months, I looked away for a few minutes and they went from elegant and tender to big and starchy. So I saved them for decoration - and sowing.

The butternut is from Dad, which also ended up as decoration, not dinner; as did the other pointed squash. Both have now hardened up to the point of being impossible to cut even if I wanted to; I'd need a machete and upper-body strength I just don't possess.


  1. Wonderful words! I especially like ‘Delayed gratification is what edible gardening is all about’ so true, gardening is often a test of patience. All your seeds look wonderful, so much potential food!

    1. jane, we must be sitting here blogging at the same time - i just left a comment on your blog! that's a great way of looking at those seeds - it's often hard to bleive that small, dry, hard balls are going to be green tender meals in a few months' time. Patience and delayed gratification indeed!

  2. Lovely words indeed. Dan and my first crop of potatoes came up recently and they are just so good. We are pretty excited to get some more veggies happening ASAP.

    1. ah, freshly dug spuds with a little butter and salt and pepper - life at its best!


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