In Indonesia, there was a papaya tree outside our bedroom window. The fruit was big and tasty, not like the tiddlers they sell in Tesco for a quid. We had a rambutan tree, too, a durian tree, a jambu tree, and we grew all kinds of things in the garden, from sweetcorn all the way down to the humble peanut. The sun was hot, the rain was nourishing and everything thrived.
In Brazil, we grew sweetcorn and bananas and one or two other things that could survive the dry season. It was primitive – we were remote – so we kept chickens for their eggs and their meat. If we wanted pork, we bought a pig and did what had to be done. If we wanted beef, we bought it fresh from the fazenda. Fish came right out of the river and onto the barbecue.
So, with a background like that, I’d like my own children to see and experience that food doesn’t just come wrapped in plastic from the supermarket. Vegetables grow in the dirt. So for the past few years we’ve set aside a small patch that we dig over and plant. We’ve done potatoes and peas and raspberries and strawberries and . . . every bloody year we’re battered by pests. Every year. Without fail.
Last year the snails came like a biblical plague. They were everywhere. At night they appeared from their damp daytime hideaways, crawling across the lawn in their hundreds (seriously); an evil horde that devoured everything in its path. Slug pellets controlled them to a certain degree but . . . well, coupled with the crappy weather last year, not much survived in our vegetable patch.
This year it’s the pigeons. Yep. Pigeons. I had no idea that pigeons would sit in my garden and feast on the leaves of the cauliflowers my children planted, but that’s what they’ve done. They are, officially, the second plague.
The third plague is ever-present and it is the worst of the three. It is the annual problem of kitty crap. If you put a trowel in the soil in my garden I can almost guarantee it’ll be no further than a metre from the nearest buried cat shit. I’ve tried every deterrent imaginable but still they come. Like stealth ninjas in the night leaving their terrible packages of stench and horror for my children to unwittingly stick their fingers into.
So imagine my surprise when, despite the three plagues, the carrots grew this year. They’re small, admittedly, but they grew. There are raspberries, too, and even one or two of the califlowers might just survive.
So what happened when we pulled up the carrots in triumph?
My 5 year old son tookone look at them and said ‘Yeuch, they look DISGUSTING.’
So, I guess it’s off to the supermarket for vegetables, then?