• Byron Smith with Tess Robinson

Why Grow Your Own Food?

I live my life pretty well by the old adage that the journey is just as important as the destination. I’ve found that whether it’s surfing, cooking or growing, this rings true throughout both my everyday life and my passions. While the modern-day mentality is to seek out the quick fix, or to purchase the end result, I’d hate to miss out on the joy and experience of immersing myself in the process and the lessons I learn along the way.

For me, growing food is a labour of love, and I usually find the process more fulfilling than the final harvest itself. Although many of us live busy urban lives, where space and time are often limited, we still yearn to enjoy our lives like our country counterparts. And really, why shouldn’t we?

You’ll see that [my book, Slow Down and Grow Something] is divided into two sections – Part One contains plenty of gardening advice, while Part Two explores the four seasons, including the plants you’ll most likely be growing and harvesting during each season and the recipes we like to make using those seasonal crops.

Much of the world’s food is grown in three very different climate zones – tropical, subtropical and temperate – so it’s not surprising that planting and harvesting times vary from place to place. Your region might be too cool to grow mangoes, or too warm to grow apples, but we can all grow something, somewhere. Gardening will continue to surprise you with what’s possible for as long as you dig it (pun intended!).

"For me, growing food is a labour of love, and I usually find the process more fulfilling than the final harvest itself."

I think that rediscovering our passion for growing food will become a lot more important as the planet’s population continues to increase, productive farmland is further fragmented and our tastebuds cease to find the tasteless, snap-frozen supermarket veggies all that desirable. You just need to see the queue at the supermarket after it’s been closed for a public holiday to realise that the majority of us are totally dependent on the convenience of buying our fruits and veggies.

Unfortunately, urban living often means we don’t have enough space to grow all of our own food, but if you look around and talk to others who want to grow, a location and an opportunity will soon arise.

Let’s celebrate this ancient skill. After all, it was the desire to grow food that allowed humans to transition from a nomadic existence into our current societies.

Besides, gardening is truly entertaining, addictive, rewarding and fulfilling, both physically and mentally – regardless of the likelihood of a world food shortage in the future. It also adds richness to your cooking by making the most of what’s in season, and you can share your flavoursome bounty with friends, too! So get out there and make a start – there’s a seed with your name on it.

Byron Smith is a horticulturalist and found of Urban Growers, an edible garden company that designs, installs and maintains food gardens on Australia's east coast, for commercial, community and private clients such as Qantas, Three Blue Ducks, Oz Harvest and Martin Place. Tess Robinson is the founder of cult branding agency Smackbang Designs, and the chief cook with the produce from Byron's food garden.

Images and text from Slow Down and Grow Something by Byron Smith with Tess Robinson, Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99 Photography by Alex Carlyle (location), Rob Palmer (food).

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