By Lindsey Turnbull
We share tips and ideas to help you save the planet, with suggestions on how you can easily go greener every day.
Grow your own
If any readers are from the United Kingdom and are over 40 they may remember a TV comedy called The Good Life, where a suburban couple pack in their jobs and turn their back garden into their own mini-farm in a bid to become self-sustaining when it comes to food. While we may all dream of a similar existence, few of us have the time and resources to live totally off the fat of the land.
Some of us might love the idea of planting and growing our own veg but have not got a clue where to start. The good news is that it is really easy to grow your own in Cayman. New growth can appear in just a few days or weeks and once you realise how easy it is, you will catch the bug and be keen to expand your homegrown repertoire.
Having a steady supply of homegrown produce right on your doorstep is a no-brainer. With a little love, care and know-how, you will have fresh veg that tastes so much better than imported varieties, it will be packed full of nutrients, and, perhaps best of all, it’s free (save, maybe, for the purchase of a packet of seeds).
Christoph Dutour, who helps out at The Farmacy farm in North Side, says the best way to start is by visualising how you want to layout your plot.
“We have lots of different fruits and vegetables that are easy to grow here in Cayman. Decide what you want to grow and where you want to grow it. Think about planting things like callaloo (local spinach), okra, peppers, tomatoes, these are the staples,” he advises.
The next step is to prepare the land by clearing it of any weeds and rocks. The soil should be rich in nutrients, preferably from your own composted vegetable waste. Think about using manure from chickens, if you keep them, as their manure adds a particularly fertile element to the soil.
“You can also grow plants in small boxes, trays or even wooden pallets, like we do on the farm,” Mr. Dutour said. “You can organise your seedlings into rows and write on the trays what they contain to remind you of what you have grown. Remember that it is important that the ground is well tilled so that drainage can occur, because small root systems don’t like sitting in water. Wooden pallets are particularly good for keeping small plants well organised and well drained.”
Make sure you hand water small seedlings with a watering can to ensure they don’t drown (by using a hosepipe, for example).
Mr. Dutour recommends trying out lots of different varieties. “If, for example, you want to grow tomatoes, it’s best to sew a few different varieties to see what grows best in your garden,” he explained. “Just throw a few different types of seeds down and see what comes up. Some will grow and then you can pick the nice, strong ones.”
Replant the seedlings into more spacious beds; water every other day (the ground needs to dry out, Dutour explains) and watch your plants grow.
Callalloo is another plant that is incredibly easy to grow in Cayman. These sturdy plants can be grown from seed (buy the seeds from the growers at the Department of Agriculture) and are very forgiving, should your soil not be perfectly fertile.
Callalloo covers the ground at The Pharmacy, with the deeply green leaves sprouting just wherever the wind blows the seeds of this hardy plant. Herbs are another relatively instant fix, with basil, mint and chives all quick growers that produce satisfying results in our warm climate.
“The nature of our planet is abundancy, not a scarcity,” Dutour says. “I would encourage everyone to think consciously about self-sufficiency.”
Where to buy seeds
The Department of Agriculture, situated at 181 Lottery Road, Lower Valley, Bodden Town Tel: 947-3090. It is a brilliant resource that sells an abundance of seeds. Currently you can buy seeds for okra, radishes, peppers, pumpkin, cucumber, watermelon, carrots, beets and much more.
Vigoro Nursery (on Agricola Drive, Lower Valley and also on Walkers Road) has an excellent supply of seeds to try out, especially tomatoes. Try Small Fry cherry tomatoes, the multi-coloured Heirloom Favourites or the Best Boy, Big Boy and Independence Day hybrids.
Kirk’s Home Centre on Eastern Avenue and A.L. Thompson’s on North Sound Road also both have a great selection of seeds.
Callaloo and bacon soup
Full of iron-rich goodness, this is a delicious soup to make from your home-grown callaloo.
3 rashers bacon
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 litre/4 cups of hot vegetable stock
A nice big bunch of washed callaloo, leaves only, chopped
125 ml/½ cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper
Fry bacon rashers until crispy, then take out of the pan, set aside and crumble into pieces. Using the bacon fat, fry off the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add the callaloo, stir and add the coconut milk, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes. Let cool slightly, then blend with an immersion (stick) blender. Pour into a bowl and garnish with crispy bacon bits.