Cook, traveller, father, husband, filmmaker, urban farmer, entrepreneur… and not particularly in that order. I cook. I make television. I love the outdoors. I’m earning my green fingers and the open road is where I find my sanity. I was born in Durban, South Africa, grew up in Cape Town and have been burning my, Read More
My greenhouse was working great, but I soon realized that I would never be able to compete with what nature offered for free: sunlight, water, soil; which brought me to the next logical step and an obvious but profound realization:
I don’t eat grass.
The greenhouse is the realm of the scientist in me. It’s the place to learn, experiment and make mistakes, but the garden is the realm of the farmer and a necessary part of growing your own food. I’ve always grown my own food, like most people, but never with the mindset of it replacing my supermarket. We like to grow herbs and maybe a couple of tomato plants, but why not rip up your ornamental front lawn and turn it into a vegetable garden? That’s what I did – after all, I don’t eat grass.
I tried to apply all that I learnt through my greenhouse, but I soon realized that this was a completely different ball game. Again, there were many learning curves and failed experiments, but I hope that I can make these mistakes so that you don’t have to. After about six months I had made some progress and was producing about half of all the vegetables that my family ate on a daily basis – and it tastes amazing – but I suppose that’s what it’s supposed to taste like.
Having a full on vegetable garden is quite a big setup and obviously requires much more care and attention – which is probably impossible for any working man, including me – but this issue is too pressing for me, especially in all my years of trying to track down where our food comes from, so I went full steam ahead. It’s a great weekend project to get started on and an opportunity to give up the remote for a spade and get those green fingers dirty. We’ve been fed this lie that we can’t do it ourselves; that we don’t have the time; that it’s too difficult – and it is hard work, make no mistake – but not nearly as hard as the lie would have us believe.
“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.”
– Michael Pollan
If we we’re supposedly smart enough to put a man on the moon, surely we can figure out how to marry human smarts with natural systems in a way that allows us to exist more harmoniously with the planet as a whole in the places we live and work.
This, I believe, will be the human species’ most pressing and important challenge in the immediate future; the will to effect change in the areas we live and work without hiding behind ignorance or apathy, to actually do good and deliver for our communities.
With my eyes set on this new mission to start growing my own food, I decided to build a greenhouse. This is like my green laboratory where I can learn the science behind growing my own food in a contained environment. And my greenhouse isn’t just an organic workshop, it’s my man cave.
I think it’s important that everyone has a space for themselves – not just men – but for me it’s my greenhouse. It’s a place where I can come for an hour after work and just wind down, forgetting the stresses and pressures of running a business – it’s almost like therapy or meditation for me. I tend to my seedlings, make sure the growing plants are all looking good and check that all the equipment is still working properly. It’s a place where I control the environment…well mostly.
I think that this idea appeals to most healthy people in South Africa and at the moment there is a growing trend to go green and eat organic food. I needed to know where my food was coming from and how it was produced and since no one could give me any good answers, I was going to find out for myself by going back to its roots.
Now, straight off the bat, there are two things that often deter people from even trying this: time and money. The common perception is that organic and free-range foods are much more expensive and in many ways reserved for those who are wealthy enough to afford it – the rest of us have to settle for the cheaper, substandard products available at our run-of the-mill supermarkets. Obviously, if you are growing your own food – as we all should – the cost is essentially nothing; free food for the most part! The downside then becomes the time cost: tending to your plants, watering them, checking the soil, and tending to pests – it can seem almost impossible and ultimately deters people from even trying.
The truth is that growing your own food is easier than it’s ever been. With even the most modest technology, you can automate nearly the entire process so that your greenhouse will be fully tended to while you’re at work. All you have to do is pick what you want for dinner!
This is what I hope to share with everyone reading this and if you stick around I’ll show you how easy this can be, using my experiments as an example so that you don’t have to make the mistakes that I’ve made. We can all do this, and if we do, we could change the way that we eat for the better, so I’ll keep you posted on how we can do this!
I never thought that I would end up building a career as a foodie,
and yet here I am, South Africa’s ‘bush cook’ as people have come to call me.
It all started as a happy-go-lucky road trip where I would cook for my friends, but that novelty eventually wore off as time went on and my appetite grew. I started to realise that I didn’t really have any clue about where my food came from, how it was made, and what was in it. And I had these questions after establishing a career in food, so I couldn’t imagine how anyone else would know the answers to these questions either – and that’s a problem for me.
So that became my next mission and I produced a number of series that tried to answer these questions by interrogating fast food ‘restaurants’, meeting with farmers, and visiting commercial food production facilities. It was very revealing and although I was able to pry bits of information that shed some light on my queries, my questions remained unanswered for the most part.
“I’ve had the time to really think about what I’ve experienced this year and the one and only thing that repeats itself in my head is:
Where does my food come from?”
That’s when I decided t to take matters into my own hands. I was tired of being dependant on these companies who supplied my food without telling me where it came from or how it was made, and I started wondering whether I even needed them that much. So it was time for me to start earning my green fingers at home. I was going to see whether I could possibly grow my own food as far as possible, and although I had learnt a lot about food and farming over the years, I was going into this somewhat blind – let’s just say there were many (failed) experiments, but after a good couple of years of trial and error, I’m finally coming right and proving to myself that I can do this.
Now I need to share this with you and prove to the world that we can all do this together, because in my opinion it’s one of the most important issues that currently face humanity. There’s an analogy that I often use to describe how vital our food is to us:
“Would you put dirty oil into your one-of-a-kind car? Muddy water into the radiator? Bad fuel into the tank? No. Your body is a one-of-a-kind vehicle and unlike our four wheeled collector’s items, we can’t get a new one, so be careful what you put in to it.”
This is the beginning of a new series of projects for me,
so keep your eye on this space for all the updates on how we can all do this at home…