I have discovered a perfectly good way to deal with the snails in my garden – serve them up on a plate. Um… Yeah… maybe. When someone else does it for you and they are barely recognisable from the slimy gastropods running rampant through a damp spring garden, and covered in a rich delicious garlic sauce then they are quite delightful. Although I’m not entire sure this is a dish I could re-create at home with success or convince my poor long suffering family to eat my offerings.
They had no trouble trying and even gobbling them up when cooked by a professional on a cruise ship. At home may be a different story. But then this is one of the terrible flaws of traveling by cruise ship – there is far too much good food and it is so easy to say ‘yes please’ to one more cake or one more cocktail. I’m on holiday after all.
However, I wasn’t on holiday. Well not really, I was on a working holiday and it has to be the hardest work I have ever done. Well not really. My job on this wonderful two week journey around the South Pacific was to enlighten my fellow passengers to the joys and wonders of growing their own food and them implore them to give it a go themselves once they got back on to firm land.
But it wasn’t all standing up front with a microphone in my hand wearing my “speaking gumboots” – for dramatic effect. Although I do have to say any excuse to slip on a pair of gumboots after days in fancy shoes, and some with heels that cause me to wobble a bit, is so comforting. Once I’d regaled my audiences I could melt into the part of passenger and was able to enjoy all on offer in this world that was dominated by the blue ocean that surrounded us. The only green to be found was with the plastic plants used for display.
Two weeks without so much as a glimpse of land would be enough to send this soil toiler mad, so fortunately the itinerary allowed us to visit several pacific nations. So aside from taking in the cultural differences, shopping, lying on beaches, swimming, snorkelling and feeding the most colourful fish, I was on the lookout for gardens. How do they grow their food in foreign places?
Often the garden would be spotted halfway down the side of a great mountainous hill we had climbed and I could only really look at it using the zoom of my camera, and other times we were fortunate enough to be able to walk right by a garden and wonder what the weird and wonderful crops they were growing in straight lines in a patch carved out from the jungle. Many times just wandering through the markets was an interesting insight into the food grown there. Although I doubt I’d eat the unrefrigerated meat displayed on the concrete floor.
However we completely hit the horticultural jackpot when we were invited to tour the veggie patch of a gardener just as keen as me and we were able to have great conversations about the ups and downs of gardening in a tropical environment. Well as best as you can when there is a language barrier. But that garden on a small island outside Port Villa in Vanuatu was essentially the same as gardens I’d seen anywhere. There were tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, beans and carrots, and some other more unusual things like cassava and taro.
Some of the problems this gardener faced were not unfamiliar to many of us in that his garden was recently replanted as it had been decimated by chickens and he had a unique solution to keeping them out. However some problems were something far more devastating and I hope never to experience them in my community – Tropical cyclones that destroy everything. For a people whose existence is based around the coconut tree for food, shelter, fibre, wood and in every other conceivable way, it must really hurt the people of the village to have to buy coconuts at $3 each after Cyclone Pam tore up their world a few months ago. But they are a resilient people and are the friendliest and happiest nation in the entire south pacific. Should you ever get the opportunity to visit Vanuatu you wouldn’t be disappointed.
But with all the endless blue skies and the bluest of oceans behind us, we have come back to somewhat grey sky but the endless green in the fields seems to my greenery starved eyes to be the most vivid shades of freshness I think I have ever seen. Either that or in a mere two weeks I forgot just how wonderful my corner of the world can be.
Come again soon – I just need to sort out a few bits and bobs and then we can get the growing season underway.
Cheers Sarah : o )