Musings from the summer vegetable garden

These musings from the summer vegetable garden bring great tidings; not just a wonderful feast but also a thankful heart to God. The table is laden with good food and my cup runneth over with Catawba grape honey mead.

Gardening never fails to fascinate me for many reasons. Not least is that every season is quite different; and one year varies from another. This has been a summer of heavy rain and mostly cool temperatures; we had fires right up until Christmas. All the fruit and veg are late; but a dozen blueberries straight from the bush are the order of every breakfast right now.

Last year we had our first susu on New Year’s Day. Now we have only a profusion of vines, tendrils and flowers; not even one tiny fruit to be seen, though two were found latterly lurking in the fronds. They are a staple at Our Green Home; we enjoy the subtle flavour and abundant nutrition virtually every lunch for six months. It is particular rich in beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A; a deficiency causes nearly half a million kids worldwide to go blind every year. One cup also contains about 10% of the protein needed by a growing child.

Basket of susus

The susu is also known as chaote squash in much of the world.

The butternut too are way behind; plenty of growth and flowers giving promise of another huge harvest out of the compost heap but not even one little gourd yet. Gems, zucchini and cucumbers are bearing prolifically.

One giant gem squash has boggled our minds; 14cm in diameter, tender and delicious, enough for four meals. It’s astonishing what the humic acid in compost can do.

Giant gem squashNot seen before in 40 years of gardening

Most years we have gooseberries every single day but they are few and far between; especially after sharing them with the toppies which does not aggrieve me. But the granadillas are falling from the vines like pennies from heaven; they love all the rain with a few days of hot sun to ripen the fruit. Each one contains 2 grams of fibre; only 5% of those enjoying typical grocery store food get the recommended daily amount with disastrous consequences for the bowels and general immunity; little wonder the recent pandemic hit so hard.

Tens of thousands of tiny cherry guavas are forming with the promise of my favourite mead and the best jelly ever.

The oranges are nearly over but we are still enjoying the odd lemon and lime; remember citrus is rich in the only proven nutrient to help prevent dementia; called beta-cryptoxanthin. And we are still enjoying an avocado a day. Soon they will be finished too and we’ll have to wait until May for the new crop. Right now they are selling for around R20 in the supermarket.

Always wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your nose and ears; it can make a useful receptacle for garden produce!


There is strong research reported this week in “Two Minute Medicine” that high fruit intake is associated with a lower incidence of type-2 diabetes, probably the greatest health challenge of our time. Each 100 g/day higher intake, say 7 granadillas, is associated with a 2.8% reduced risk of diabetes.

Catawba grapes before fermenting to honey meadCatawba grapes in readiness for brewing honey mead

Never before have we had a crop of spuds like this year; despite the rain they haven’t been affected by blight. Nearly half a ton of new potatoes is expected; they are not fattening like those from cold storage. The mealies are looking good too though “One Chomp Stealth” is frustrating me. He takes a bite out of each tiny unformed cob before throwing it down in disgust; and threatening to destroy the whole crop for both us and himself. Regular patrols with the paintball gun are the order of the day.

Corn and lima beans in the gardenCorn and lima beans in the garden give the promise of succotash

Rows of radishes, the first year we have had any success with okra and a mountain of greens add to the abundance. Fresh beans daily and huge vines of limas giving promise for autumn and winter vegetable protein; and succotash.

Feeding kept bees inside the hiveBees are fed in a dearth with a mixture of honey, sugar and water

Fresh organic eggs and unspoiled honey are daily on the table. I’m glad I am not a vegan. And for the record we are very careful not to exploit our pets; they are well cared for.

Bees feeding hungrily on a sunflowerBees feeding hungrily on a sunflower

The purpose of this column is not to boast about Our Green Garden. It is simply to state clearly that a mountain of nutritious food can be grown in every suburban backyard. Our motto is, don’t buy your fruit and veg, grow them. We collect most of our own seed so the only real cost is the sweat off your brow.

Of course we do buy some food; mainly dairy, olive oil and spices. Having a horror of feedlots we are turning into flexitarians; organic red meat where possible, perhaps once a week. It’s more expensive, of course but we eat so little.

"There is increasing evidence that exposure to plants and green space and particularly to gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health."

- Clinical Medicine (PMC6334070)[2]

People garden for different reasons; some just for the love of nature and seeing things grow. For others the only food on the table is what they sow and reap. Fearful of the cancer associated with herbicides, many are turning to their own fruit and veg.

And we just think the taste of your own freshly-picked organic fruit and veg makes it all so worthwhile.

There is strong research that gardening is healthy; fewer visits to the doc and less meds. It beats resistance training at the gym. No vitamin D supplements are necessary but a good floppy hat is always wise obviously. All the fibre makes for a happy tum, feeding a flourishing microbiome of friendly bugs.

Broad beans supportedBroad beans must be staked

If you’re thinking of getting started, February and March are the months for planting the winter garden. Get the plants established before the cold sets in. I recommend as many different kinds of greens as you can, broad beans and peas for protein. Plan where you could place fruit trees; a grafted avocado, a lemon and a mulberry perhaps. Most important is the compost heap; all the kitchen waste, grass mowings and prunings.

A very conservative estimate reckons that our old Hass avocado tree has produced nearly 10,000 fruit. I leave you to work out the value of that at today's supermarket prices.

We’ve never tottered it up, but we reckon our green suburban garden produces at least R100,000 of food every year. Just a thought if you are feeling the pinch!

Musings from the summer vegetable garden

These musings from the summer vegetable garden do bring great tidings; there's a mountain of food to be had for all those willing to shed a little sweat growing beans, granadillas and potatoes, for example. This is not a page about religion but there is joy, a veritable feast to be shared with friends, family and yes the poor too.

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Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself and Mother Earth for future generations; and your family too, of course. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books.

Here are the back issues.

  • Lifestyle and ideal body weight
  • What are ultra-processed foods?
  • Investing in long-term health
  • Diseases from plastic exposure
  • Intensive lifestyle management for obesity has limited value
  • A world largely devoid of Parkinson's Disease
  • The impact of friendly bacteria in the tum on the prevention of cancer
  • There's a hole in the bucket
  • Everyone is talking about weight loss drugs
  • Pull the sweet tooth
  • If you suffer from heartburn plant a susu
  • Refined maize meal and stunting
  • Should agriculture and industry get priority for water and electricity?
  • Nature is calling
  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa