Piako Post

I really don’t dig this solution

- Virginia Fallon

Doug the spud might not have been the hero we deserved but, dammit, he was the hero we needed.

Among the endless stories of terrible things humans do to each other, Doug was a ray of earth-coloured hope; a carby promise the world isn’t all bad. Hauled from the Hamilton soil last year, the 7.9-kilogram thing was tipped by its owner to be a sure-fire contender for a world record, easily outweighin­g the current holder, a 4.99kg Nottingham­shire tater.

And it all seemed so promising: Doug looked, tasted, and behaved like a potato, but DNA testing revealed he wasn’t; he was a gourd, and this is why New Zealand can’t have nice things.

Doug the potato-adjacent tuber is only the latest in a long line of oversized fruit and vegetables produced and celebrated by Aotearoa. There’s been the giant tomato, a 495g beauty grown in Waikanae, a 30kg bunch of about 100 bananas grown in Auckland, and an 844.5kg pumpkin crowned the biggest in the country at Hamilton’s Great Pumpkin Carnival last year.

Not only do Kiwis revel in producing enormous produce, we build homages to it. We’ve got the big apple in Waitomo, the mega carrot in Ohakune, and the colossal kiwifruit in Te Puke. Cromwell trumped them all by erecting not just one but four enormous fruits; meanwhile, my home district of Kāpiti can’t even have a macron on its welcome sign without someone stealing it.

Anyhow, the reason I’m currently interested in all things produce is our skyrocketi­ng food prices. Vegetable gardens are the solution to the issue, people who can afford food assure us, and right now I’ll give anything a go to avoid buying yet another $4 broccoli from our supermarke­t duopoly.

I have tried gardening before, and some years ago managed to grow a crop of tomato. Yes, tomato. For weeks I nurtured my plants, watering them religiousl­y, staking and tying them carefully, yet the fruit of my labour was just one single fruit. Harvest time was quick, though, and no, it did not feed my family.

Nonetheles­s, I pressed on, and the next year diversifie­d my crop. My spinach grew a bit, chuckled briefly and died. My strawberry plants flowered and grew fruit that, some time in the seconds between being green and red, disappeare­d. My cabbages were a wormy abominatio­n, and my single pumpkin reached the size of a tennis ball before the dog plucked it from the vine and bought it to me to throw.

The only things that flourished were herbs I’ve never known what to do with, and a courgette I named so couldn’t eat. Ultimately my gardening efforts ended with me mumbling on down to the supermarke­t to fork out for the things I’d already forked out for and killed.

Personal failures aside, the real problem with vegetable gardens is they’re offered as a solution to poverty. NZ is in the grip of a food crisis, and telling anyone already struggling to afford the basics that they should grow their own produce is just one more way to shame, one more way of accusing people of not helping themselves. Look at all that bare land! Go and work it, peasants!

It’s a diversiona­ry tactic when the real solution to the nation’s hungry bellies comes from Parliament. Last week Te Pāti Māori launched a petition calling for GST to be cut from all food, though whether that’ll bear fruit is anyone’s guess.

The Government has acknowledg­ed we’re in a crisis by cutting the tax on fuel. Gourd only knows why it won’t do the same for vegetables.

 ?? ?? Donna and Colin Craig-Brown with Doug, their worldrecor­d spud.
Donna and Colin Craig-Brown with Doug, their worldrecor­d spud.
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