I didn’t manage to plant our home gardens in spring last year. By the time I had emerged from our busiest season ever in the nursery it was mid-December and we’d already had three weeks of 30 degree weather. The ground was parched, even the couch grass was dying, and I didn’t stand a hope of planting a thing. Luckily we have polytunnels down at the nursery where we grow summer crops like cucumbers and tomatoes, and we finally got round to planting them in early December. Rather late, but the great microclimate and regular irrigation make up for the lost time.
Much as it’s great to have tomatoes and cucumbers, I couldn’t imagine a summer without courgettes, and I can’t imagine any time of year without leafy greens. So you can imagine how delighted I was when one day a basket of beautiful rainbow beet and deep green courgettes appeared with the wonderful Jenni and Gigs when they arrived here for work. Whereas our garden is in the middle of a hot, dry windy valley, theirs is in the deep calm shade of a pine forest. Their greens were huge and lush. But apparently – and understandably – their tomato plants were rather lanky and unproductive. I duly filled the basket with tomatoes and basil from the polytunnel for its return journey home.
Once or twice a week all summer the basket has re-appeared on my kitchen table, as if by magic, filled with the green bounty which we have been unable to generate. And I duly refill it with coloured jewels of yellow, orange and red tomatoes, silvery-yellow apple cucumbers, violet eggplants, greengages, plums, golden queen and blackboy peaches, most of them fresh, some of them bottled.
The magic basket has given me more than just food. I have enjoyed the element of surprise in discovering the exact contents each week. I’ve enjoyed the discussions it has engendered. I’ve felt pride in what I’ve been able to put in the basket, but also enjoyed the luxury of dependence, of not having to produce everything myself. But most of all I treasure the inter-dependence. I could cite the proverb ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’, but in this context the māori whakatauki is much more relevant: Naku te rourou, nau te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi – With your basket and my basket the people will thrive.