A few years ago, when there were discussions with Greece and talks of the bailout of the banks were the highlight of the news, I posted on this blog about persons growing tomatoes and melongene and attempting to have food in their back yard just to have a food supply as I had been attempting to imitate my brother in law's practices.
As luck would have it, things at our home changed over the last three to four years and about two years ago I started experimenting with growing crops.
My first successful harvest was pumpkin which my mother had managed to see before everyone else. I managed to get that one massive pumpkin from a vine that seemed to meander all over the yard. I watched the other little baby pumpkins shrivel and die on the stalks, not knowing why.
Perhaps I should have invested in a water spout and watered them with a hose or some form of heavy watering just to attempt to save them. This, one pumpkin became the source of "fried pumpkin", pumpkin soup, pumpkin in peas, frozen pumpkin. I was contributing to the food in the house and there was something to eat.
I also had two "pigeon peas trees" which I had grown from small shoots. Attempting to keep them organic and with too little effort they died after being full grown. One was cut by accident by the yard cleaner and another died after being blown down by heavy winds.
My consistently successful harvest has been green beans and cassava. I started growing cassava in the dry season, watering it to keep the soil moist and almost every plant has yielded small amounts which I have shared so much that I love to harvest the crop, just to have something to give to my sisters and other family members.
The second green bean plant, (the first one was cut down by a gardener) has lasted for close to a year plus some months. It's main vine was protected by a piece of metal frame placed as a barrier against the fence on which it runs. This vine has yielded enough to share even more than the cassava, the branches have been pruned, peels have been added time and time again to nurture it. It has benefited from the shade of some green banana trees and I hope to revive it as it has provided sustenance over time. There has been curried beans, beans with saltfish, fried beans with a slice of cheese, with roti or rice and for all of that I am thankful.
Melongene, which I started with about six plants has been an on and off producer. Again using an organic approach I have had small produce which I can pick to use at home. Right now, my last surviving plant has about six melongene in various stages of growth and I have not been able to secure new plants to put into the soil. With the current weather being more dry than rainy, I would need the cassava to grow to a height where the spread of the branches will provide some shade for the melongene if I expect those plants to survive the dry season. P. S. Melongene is also called Eggplant and comes in different types, sizes and hues
Over time, I have come to love roast melongene, melongene with onions, carrots, mushrooms, seasonings and some ketchup or tomato paste. Herbs (Herbs de Provence) add just the right amount of flavour when I feel like eating vegetarian. Prior to the current period, once I made pepper shrimp (a Chinese dish) and added it to the melongene mixture, the flavor of the sauce adding oomp to a dish that I may have gotten tired of, over time.
However back to the long suffering Greeks... Mulch can be added around the roots of the plant to protect the soil. If you have gardeners or high winds, then a circle of rocks may provide some protection for the plants. When watered, mulch keeps moisture in the area and if you water the plants in the evening, then there will be a twelve hour period in which the plants can absorb the water before the sun starts drying them out.
Nutrients, such as peels can help the plants instead of fertilisers which can burn the leaves and the roots of the plants in dry weather. If needed, a good heaping amount of potting mix when added to the existing soil, will nourish the soil. Mulch will break down over time and will need to be replaced, however it adds to the soil content so you end up retaining some of your soil, protecting some of your plants and adding to the soil.
I wonder how cassava will perform across there in Greece, as it can be used to create a flour which may be used to make pasta... The tough choice comes when you have to choose between eating a piece of boiled cassava or saving it to make flour..... My cassava is yellow and it can be mellow many times when boiled....
I guess with hind sight, the moral of the advice to plant food crops is as follows:
In times of inflation, when the purchasing power of money is decreasing or when there are scarce food supplies, home grown food provides just a little buffer against scarcity and rising prices.
I am not sure anyone can ever provide for all of their needs and there may be a need to buy other food items however if you treat the power to purchase as one where you will defer the act until the latest possible moment to retain your cash, then your money may earn interest which over time which may be compounded.
In a country where VAT is charged on items, purchasing raw materials, such as the unpeeled, open potato, the raw unseasoned chicken in a plastic bag means that you spend less for food as these items may not carry VAT. Flour, very often does not carry VAT, however other food choices may and your money will be spent much faster than you think, leaving you with less to save.
I am not sure how the sales tax system works, however our system for VAT works on limits, such as the value of sales, which may have a small company be not registered for VAT and either have to absorb the VAT or pass it on to the consumer... You may think that the items in the small companies may stay awhile, however those places tend to cater for the "daily paids", the "weekly paids" the retired persons and they package their items to allow those persons to be able to buy items which will last for several meals. The chain store may carry some similar items at the same price and there may be other savings, however everyone may not be living in close proximity to the chain stores and the price of transportation may impact on the choices of many persons..
Let us hope that this year will be a better one and if it is not, then may God help our souls to become better for the experience.
copyright Jennifer N Bailey (amateur gardener, past student in: A' Level Economics & Accounts, ACCA Economics & Accounts and one day MBA economics student)