Last week, after coming back from the Christmas break, I caught up with CERES farmer Vince Fitipaldi at the warehouse (thatâ€™s him above). With such a dry start to Summer I feared I would be returning to a drought stunted field. Vince, however, seemed unusually animated and let mention that he had a few nice zucchini growing.
Next day down at Joeâ€™s Market Garden everything was looking surprisingly good; there was a big crop of tomatoes, a picked over row of beans with new ones on the way, a test patch of eggplants coming on nicely and then I saw them - the zucchinis. Straight rows of deep green plants in the rudest of good health, plant after plant sitting high on their raised beds, leaves shiny, full of flowers and lots of new fruit coming on. I looked along the row and there was not a plant that hadnâ€™t grown to its full potential.
What I was seeing was the rare coming together of soil preparation, seed selection, planting time, good weather, weeding and watering â€“ the perfect crop. So many variables, so many things that could go wrong but didnâ€™t and hereâ€™s Vince, who has grown food for decades, standing at the top of the row grinning at me like this was his first harvest.
Every now and again, whether itâ€™s in our personal lives, our work, our art, our sports or our kitchens, sometimes all the pieces just click together in such a deeply satisfying way that you have to stand back for a moment and appreciate. So with all the vicarious pleasure in the world I stood there for a little while with Vince and his apprentice, Emily, and just soaked up some extraordinary zucchini.
Vince and Em's lebanese and black zucchinis are in our produce boxes and also in the webshop You can visit Joeâ€™s Farm Gate and talk to Vince and Emily and buy their produce every Saturday from 10am. Find it on the Merri Creek bike path between the Harding St Swing Bridge and Edna Grove, Coburg.
Speaking of zucchini, coinciding with this yearâ€™s CERES Harvest Festival on Saturday March 19th is National Put a Zucchini on your Neighbourâ€™s Door Step Day. At first hearing it sounds funny and reminds me of the zucchini fatigue we suffered as children - a result of my dadâ€™s abundant gardening skills. But thereâ€™s a deeper thing going on with NPAZOYNDS Day than getting rid of some unwanted marrows; itâ€™s about knowing the people who live around us, about sharing the surplus of something that we grew ourselves (doesnâ€™t just have to be zucchini) and injecting some frivolousness into a world that sometimes takes itself far too seriously.
The 2016 Unglut Your Gut Challenge
It's week 2 of the challenge - if you've gone too hard over the summer and your microbiome has taken a beating, then join Fair Food, master fermenter Pat from Pat's Veg and Geneva from Kombuchaid to bring you the 2016 Unglut Your Gut Challenge! It's all about getting you guts back into good shape with a month long binge of fresh organic fruit and veg.
IT WORKS LIKE THIS...
To take the challenge thereâ€™s three very important steps (you have to do all of these or you don't get the fermented goodies)
Step 1. Place an order before midnight February 1st
Step 2. Order for 4 CONSECUTIVE WEEKS (Orders need to be $30 or more)
Step 3 Activate the challenge by entering the code GUT in the promo box with your FIRST order
Do all this and weâ€™ll deliver with your 4th order these two powerful probiotic products; a 314gm bottle of Patâ€™s Veg (various flavours) and a 330ml bottle of Kombuchaid Lemon & Ginger or Blackberry & Ginger. Problems - email us or call 8673 6288 for help.
Summer reading continues The Cabbage Heart of Darkness Series Part III
Pic: Jane Willis Taylor
Part III. Between Imagination and Execution
When I was six my mother sent us a postcard of The Big Stubby, a giant novelty beer bottle in Noosa. She was visiting her brother in Queensland, which in those days of expensive air travel was like going to another galaxy. Back in our rural New Zealand home I poured over every detail of her card. She wrote that she had also seen an equally large pineapple and banana. My mind reeled imagining this town filled with enormous grocery items you could walk inside! At the breakfast table as I absent-mindedly ate my Weet-Bix I decided if I ever had the chance to go to Australia Iâ€™d make straight for the place where The Big Things were.
Once upon a time thousands of vacationing families flocked in their station wagons to see The Big Stubby, The Big Pineapple, The Big Banana and all the other Big Things dotted around Australia. But with the flood of cheap airfares in the 90â€™s everything changed. The crowds have gone now but as an adult Iâ€™m still drawn to them. Itâ€™s different though. My awe, like their paint, has faded and standing in deserted car parks looking up at the giant silhouettes, the fascination has been replaced by a sort of searching melancholy.
I am planning a family holiday to South East Asia when I stumble across a reference to a giant cabbage in the Northern Sumatran town of Berastagi. I canâ€™t get my head around it. Orangutans yes, palm oil plantations of course but a giant cabbage in tropical Indonesia? It seems as incongruous as a big coconut in Tasmania. I wonder how it got there and what kind of people would put a giant cabbage at the centre of their town? I want to know more but all I can find are a couple of poor quality photos from backpackersâ€™ travel blogs. Everything else is a mystery.
Thereâ€™s a Big Thing out on the Western Highway between Stawell and Horsham that haunts me. Somewhere between imagination and execution something went terribly wrong with The Big Koala. Instead of a cheeky Blinky Bill delighting passer-byâ€™s into stopping for petrol and a visit to the gift shop, The Big Koala drains the light around it like a marsupial black hole. When I'm nearing him I feel like no good can ever come from stopping, but like a passing comet I am sucked into his irresistible maw. I get out of my car and look into his unknowable eyes and a terrible sadness always fills me.
Our holiday begins in Singapore. I came here once in the 80â€™s but now everything has changed. My wifeâ€™s aunt is a local; she shows us a city of rain forests under glass, towering man-made solar trees and buildings straight out of science fiction. But itâ€™s not the futuristic infrastructure that gets my attention. In a shopping mall we eat lunch in a Swensenâ€™s burger and ice cream franchise. I am jolted; these are not the people I remember from 30 years ago, today we could be in any mall, in any city in the world. And all around us sit supersized Singaporeans guzzling down burgers, soft drinks and ice cream. It occurs to me that we have moved on from making giant roadside attractions to making Big Things out of ourselves.
A few years ago The Big Koalaâ€™s owners put him up for sale. Months passed and nobody wanted the ominous effigy. Tongue-in-cheek newspaper articles and TV news stories poked fun at the sale but despite all the superior sneering there was an underlying sense of goodwill. Like a tiny unspoken hope that if, for one Peter Pan-like moment, we could drop our weary cynicism and cry out, â€œI do believe in Big Things, I do believe in Big Things,â€ weâ€™d be transported back to our station wagons travelling across the country, so excited in the innocent anticipation of seeing something familiar made giant.
In Singapore my sons discover Strawberry Fanta and Cartoon Network. Working in tandem the two products quickly fill every available dopamine receptor and become all-consuming addictions. Their appetite is desperate and bottomless. With eyes twitching like junkies they attempt to trade eternal good behaviour, pocket money and future birthday presents for more red fizzy fixes and episodes of Uncle Grandpa. I am repulsed but my mind turns uneasily to my own addiction. At home I have four perfectly good bicycles but I canâ€™t stop looking for more. Every day in my inbox auto-emails appear from eBay. As if in a trance I click from bike to bike.
I look out from our high-rise apartment to the hundreds and hundreds of cargo ships anchored offshore waiting to pass through the Straits of Malacca. Like a scab I canâ€™t leave alone my mind keeps returning to the Giant Cabbage. I think if it were built hundreds or thousands of years ago it would be made painstakingly of stone. Its people would perform songs and dances to it, drink to its health and make sacred offerings. They would be inextricably linked by the sustenance it provided, the clothing that kept them warm and the courage they gained from it to fight their enemies. It would define them - cabbage people.
Today we fabricate our big things from fibreglass and apart from the cluttered gift shops, The Big Koala and his giant cousins are hollow. But perhaps they define us still , perhaps they explain why weâ€™re so hungry all the time, why we canâ€™t stop filling ourselves with Swensenâ€™s burgers, Strawberry Fanta, Cartoon Network and endless bicycles â€“ perhaps we've become hollow too. Perhaps, like The Big Koala, something between imagination and execution has gone terribly wrong. I watch the ships out the window and feel The Giant Cabbage of Berastagi drawing me ever closer.
Have a great week
CERES Fair Food's weekly update with stories from our farmers and producers, Food Hosts, the Fair Food warehouse and theworld at large.