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HEALING HERBS: Bring back the kitchen garden

Annette Maynard-Watson

HEALING HERBS: Bring back the kitchen garden

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My late great-aunt Ermine Forde and my grandparents Hilda Hoyte and Leslie Holder did not will their impressive vintage kitchen gardens to anyone. 
Instead, they meticulously ensured that the art of African-Bajan kitchen gardening remains in the bloodline. It is inculcated in us; my aunt Elaine Hoyte and my mother have perfected that craft.
A variety of silent doctors, including thyme, bonavist, mustard, cabbage, sorrel, marrow, pigeon peas, christophenes and pumpkins have been nurtured in their gardens. In Bajan terms, “they like ah piece ah gardening”.
However, as we celebrate Independence in Barbados, we must bring back the important treasure called a Bajan kitchen garden.
The original kitchen garden is losing its touch in Barbados.
Furthermore, some of the educated elite who are misinformed, truly despise gardening because they rate it as a shameful and lowly agricultural activity for the poor and unintelligent.
They even go as far as believing that it is better to purchase all vegetables commercially and their offspring are fed this misinformation.
This is a thought pattern that needs to change and be replaced with information pertaining to the true value a kitchen garden holds to our survival and heritage.
Additionally, it is historically attached to the colonial past and just as we cherish tourism, we must similarly cherish agriculture. 
Crafting and nurturing a kitchen garden is a very healing, economically viable and environmentally friendly project. As I reminisce about my grandmother’s garden, I recall it was highly respected, never neglected, and we understood its value to the family. It was organic, contained a home-made trellis for marrow and other vines, while rainwater was captured in watering cans. The ash from burnt debris was placed in the beds to boost fertilization.
The garden was also a place of family bonding and education. It was compulsory for siblings to assist with maintenance. We were taught cultivation methods and planting vegetables according to seasons and the moonlight. The crops were reaped and sold in the market to get a few “coppers” to feed the family. However, some was kept for personal consumption to ensure better health.
Finally, our Creator ensured that our nation has good soil and rain to nurture the plants. Therefore, visit those elderly people in the countryside or read about Emancipation and peasant farming to be empowered. Garden wisdom allowed me to win prizes in the Agrofest national kitchen garden contest and to have bountiful crops to share.
As the present recession continues, investing in a kitchen garden is an economic venture that can help reduce our supermarket bills. If we plant more, we will save more.