By George Alleyne
Wednesday, May 13 2009
If one is to judge from the relatively high prices for food at supermarkets then Trinidad and Tobago must be the only place on the globe that has not been affected, price wise at least, by the international economic downturn which has seen food prices tumbling worldwide, for example, the United States of America, China, India, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and South Africa. Nonetheless, the answer must lie, not in complaining, but in starting a kitchen garden in which fruits and vegetables can be grown on a modest scale, or if you have adequate land space then yams, eddoes, carrots, pigeon peas, corn, bananas, ochroes, green figs and dasheen as well as the seasonal sorrel.
However, you do not need a great deal of land space to plant such items as celery, lettuce, tomatoes, cassava peppers, bhaji, patchoi, cabbage, cauliflower, bodi, chive, parsley, basil (for seasoning), peppers and ginger as these can be grown in drums or otherwise relatively small containers some of which can fit in porches, under your eaves or in comparatively tight backyards. In turn, the required seedlings can be purchased at plant shops at a modest cost, or instead of gracing the lunch table with every grain of corn you have bought or cook all of the ochroes, you can utilise some for a kitchen garden, along with ends of carrots or pigeon peas from a couple of pods.While it may be difficult for the average Trinidadian or Tobagonian to plant all or most of these, as many of them today, live in gated communities or in apartments or in areas where the houses are close on each other, nevertheless, families can be selective in their crops.
This does not mean that the crops would be full grown overnight. Indeed, some crops will come to full term in 12 to 18 months while others such as ochroes will take as little as six weeks and yet others like limes and others of the citrus family begin bearing after a few years. A pollock pear tree will have its first yield in approximately three years while the ordinary pear tree will take somewhat longer. Pear trees, however, not unlike mango trees, whether calabash, teen or doux doux, among others, except they are grafted, like the julie, also must be viewed in years for the first crop. Whatever the restrictions, size wise, in terms of crops which can be planted in land space, what is important is that we begin now, however small.
Few things I find more distasteful than the saying of persons seeking to justify paying high prices for food items: “What ah go do? Ah cyar eat de money.” Almost as though that was justification enough for forking out money for clearly overpriced items, many of which they could readily have grown at home. There is no justification, whether in consciously charging clearly higher than necessary prices for food items or in shoppers not wishing to convey the impression that they cannot afford the prices.
When recently I went shopping at a grocery some of the prices were not merely high but distinctly absurd. Limes were being sold at $2.85 for one and ochroes carried a shelf price of more than $19 a pound, quantified in kilos. While there was and is no need for me to buy limes, because years ago I had planted a lime tree I, pointedly, refused to purchase ochroes at that price, although my ochro plants ceased to be productive some time earlier and had been uprooted.
Even though wheat prices have fallen, internationally, the cost of a sandwich loaf has not shifted from the $10.50 to which it was readjusted some time ago, and that of a loaf of hops bread stands at the better side of one dollar. Trinbagonians should return to the planting of kitchen gardens as did earlier generations.
When I was a child growing up in San Fernando there was a troubling food shortage during World War 11. Flour, among other things, was scarce and among the crops we grew in our kitchen garden was cassava from which the family made farine or flour, and with this baked salt bread and sweet bread. A crisis had arisen and we, along with many other families, dealt with it in a practical manner. Why not respond in like manner today?