va

where the good stuff grows

(march 2012)

I am a mad keen vegie gardener and can vouch that homegrown tastes better, organic home grown better still. There are a few challenges to get a good vegie patch going, the right soil, watering regime, companion planting knowledge, correct planting times and places, harvest timing, maintenance and most of all pest control. It requires constant diligence and hard work to produce food but it is worth the effort.

If you don't have adequate space, sun, soil conditions, water or time then a community garden plot is a great alternative, the bonus is the shared pool of knowledge that's "on tap" from your neighbours.

Failing all of this you can always hit one of the farmers markets and buy the good stuff from a grower.

Supermarket veg pales in relation; it has suffered transport logistics, storage time depletion possibly an energy hungry cold chain so it really can't compete. You also have no idea what inputs were used to grow it, but at a farmers market you can actually ask the farmer.

That's why some of the supermarket stuff tends to curl up and die within a few seconds of leaving its controlled environment on the shelf, but well grown vegies freshly picked and bought from a good vendor last for weeks and weeks. The nutritional benefits are obvious, the flavor and range (that are not just the standard commercial varieties) are a cook's dream.

I can't possibly do justice to the number of great growers we have in our South Australian markets but here's a little snap shop of who's on my beat.

At the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market (ASFM) you are spoilt for choice. Annemarie and Graham from The Food Forest tick every single box, organically certified grown fruits, nuts and vegies from their permaculture set up just outside Gawler. You can't eat their produce or listen to them talk and not get interested in permaculture. They are living proof that there is an alternative system of production that is respectful to the land, low input and tasty. They are a wealth of knowledge and a tour of their operation (something they welcome) is a must as it is truly inspiring.

Pat and Lina from Patlin Gardens are already an ASFM institution, if Pat wasn't a market gardener he would be a rock star! Every week he stands proudly in front of his huge stand. This is a man who knows he has the good stuff and he is always eager to give you a taste of something and have a chat. One of Pat and Lina's staff, Daniel an agricultural student, is one of my favorite market personalities. There is something a little magic about the way he handles the vegies with a sense of pride, like they are his babies.

Sarina and Francesco Virgara are ASFM regulars but you can also catch them up at Willunga Farmers Market on their home patch (their farms are at Willunga and Myponga) as well as at the Victor Harbor Farmers Market.

At Willunga Farmers Market, Barry Beach is another certified organic grower. Better known for his amazing wood oven sour dough bread and fair trade organic spices, Barry grows an array of fruit and veg but of particular interest is his penchant for Asian vegies and herbs.

Also at the Willunga market, Starlight Springs is so named because the farm is a network of natural springs, they have organic and some hard to get Heirloom varieties of veg. Michelle Vidau and Jack Walsh from Herbivorous always have a queue for their real herbs that have grown properly in the sun and an array of edible flowers and salad greens.

The Victor Harbor Farmers Market is gaining momentum and Brenton Tamblyn is a grower and vendor of organic Heirloom varieties at The Patch. He insists that everything is picked no sooner than the day before market, that's fresh!

Final mention to Tony Scarfo, who is the nicest guy you will ever meet and supplies some of the best places in town with his organic vegies grown out Virginia way. Second generation market gardeners Tony and Maria have been growing certified organic produce for around 20 years and you can find them at the Organic & Sustainable Market, Saturday mornings in Henley Beach.

As a post script to this article, take a look at this nice little film by Noodlies to see how some, (a small snippet really,) of South Australia’s fine produce was used for the recent Tasting Australia 2014 event “A few of my favourite things with…” Paul Henry - Co-Creative Director. Here’s Paul’s take on some of his favourite SA grown produce, which I had the good fortune to throw together for a special lunch.