Food Gardening: The Ultimate in Surprise Seeking

I’ve only recently realised that not all people like surprises. I felt the same sense of shock when I learned that not all people have their showers facing forwards or take their loo paper from the top. Although nearly impossible, I can get over the latter two, but not liking surprises? I don’t understand? I’ve spent most of my life praying that this will be the birthday I arrive home and one hundred people scream out “surprise” and then the music turns on and we all have the time of our lives.

My extreme desire for surprises has led me to being a food gardener. I mean, yes I wanted to be a gardener as a means to treat the earth with respect, teach children to grow organic food and to be outdoors but let’s be honest for a minute, I’m here for the surprises.

Growing my own food means I am guaranteed a daily surprise. Admittedly, though, the surprises aren’t always good, like “Surprise! A rat ate everything in the garden!” But still, a surprise is a surprise, right?! Gardening teaches us to always expect the unexpected. And in a world where everything is so fast paced and planned, couldn’t we all do with a little surprise in our lives?

Whether you’re currently into surprises or willing to be persuaded, I thought I would share the two best ways to get into the spirit of surprise gardening: planting by seed and choosing rare and rad plants.

Planting by Seed
To plant a seed and watch it grow is a spectacular thing. To think Mother Nature condensed all that growth potential into one strange and wonderfully shaped bead of life blows my mind. They’re all so different – Teeny tiny black dots that want to be broccoli, small white surfboards that want to be cucumber and little brains that want to be nasturtiums. Teaching children to understand the link between the seeds they plant and the seeds they see in the fruit or vegetables they eat has been one of my greatest joys. We talk about the pea seeds we are about to plant, what do they look like? Where have they come from? When you see children’s eyes darting around to connect the dots, suddenly the relationship between us and nature is made and the cycle is understood. The excitement of the surprise begins with a handfull of seeds.

Rare and Rad Plants
For me one of the best parts of growing food is choosing plants – seed or seedling. There is so much on offer these days when it comes to rare and heirloom varieties of food. I reckon the best way to choose what to grow is to base your decision on what looks like the most fun! Then, you get food with wow factor.

Over the years I’ve grown a huge range of plants just to see what they’re going to look like. Ivory eggplants, yellow zucchinis, and chocolate capsicums all had me racing to the garden. It’s almost impossible to condense the list, one is no better than the other.

For beginners you can’t go past heirloom radish – they’re damn quick and easy to grow and the reward of yellow, purple, red, white or little watermelon looking radishes is unbeatable. Tall king purple beans that climb high and grow long violet beans (they turn green when cooked) are a real winner with the kids. Magic colour changing beans – what’s not to love about ‘em?

Then there’s purple podded peas that develop stunning deep eggplant coloured pods with full bellies opening up to reveal bright green peas. Surprise!! Mini blue corn, yep the tiny corns are blue. Surprise! Don’t even get me started on tomatoes, there are so many wonderful types of tomatoes. Oh the tomatoes! Somebody stop me, the list is endless and the process is addictive.

Food gardening is the easiest way to inject some good old-fashioned surprise and joy into your life, even for you crazies who back it up in the shower. Summer has just begun so go on, get up and go, nah, get up and RUN to your local nursery and buy something different, something you have never seen before. And enjoy, cause you’re about to get hooked.

Say YES to the surprise garden experience.

Natasha Grogan is the founder of The Sage Garden, a Melbourne based business offering a range of school based programs, workshops and incursions focused on edible food gardening. Check out The Sage Garden’s WEBSITE / INSTAGRAM / FACEBOOK