Garden your way to better health
Are you a closet Gordon Ramsay?
Many of us have watched episodes of Masterchef and wondered ‘who has the time to do that, never mind the technique?’’
There’s no doubt food, preparation, enjoyment and sharing of it, is part of our social structure. It creates a sense of connectedness and well being.
And children who eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat more healthily, show better academic performance, and report being closer to their parents, according to a study by the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
I think what this is telling us is, you don’t need to perform like a celebrity chef every night.
Sometimes the simplest meals, made carefully and eaten mindfully, are the best.
I’m reminded of an incident when the phone rang just as I was sitting down to a meal.
When I explained what I was eating, they immediately hung up without another word.
Surprised, I finished my meal then rang to ask ‘Why the weird behaviour?’. The answer? ‘Ah, you were eating my favourite meal (sausages, mashed potatoes and vegetables). You just can’t interrupt something as good as that.’
I found that quite enlightening, as that old standby is not something we generally serve with pride.
But maybe we need to get back to basics in all things culinary, and by basics I mean way back.
Some enlightened communities here in the North Waikato have thriving community vegetable gardens.
Meremere is a case in point, and there must be others.
At full stretch, Meremere provides free ingredients for the free cooking classes held in the community centre by some very community-spirited people.
Whangamata’s council offices have forgone flowers outside the building and planted mass parsley-free to all.
Te Kauwhata emulated this with herbs in the planter boxes in the Main Rd……and realistically this is a really simple answer to get people thinking about producing healthy and tasty food.
We grudgingly accept the rising cost of living and its impact on food costs.
So what’s a manageable answer?
Vegetable gardens can chop down your grocery bill, add more shared family experiences and learning, and create better quality food.
You don’t need the old quarter acre section and you sure don’t have to have a super fancy raised bed.
You can grow tomatoes, potatoes, lettuces, courgettes, beans and peas in pots, tyre mounds or even up against a fence if you are really trying to do it as simply as possible.
Over-enthusiastic courgette plants - we all get to that point. Swap with your neighbour for their excess.
Get kids involved with their own plants or gardens, so they learn basics to set them up for life and understand where food really comes from.
Basics like ‘pick leaves from the silverbeet, don’t pull out the whole plant’…..seriously!
And if you’re still hankering after a touch of the celebrity chef, you could do worse than follow Jamie Oliver and his 15-minute, portion-savvy healthy meals.
Spring’s here …get planting! Jan Sedgwick is the Whangamarino Ward Councillor for the Waikato District Council
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