Interview with the Author: Sugar Snaps And StrawberriesPosted by Degan Walters on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Tags for this Article: book, edible gardening, garden, interview, urban
We’re usually writing about eating on Foodists, or at least about food preparation. Andrea Bellamy gets you started properly by showing you how to grow your own edible garden – even if you live in the city! – in her book Sugar Snaps And Strawberries: Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small-Space Edible Garden (photos by Foodist Jackie Connelly).
In it you’ll learn about how to plan your garden and harvest as well as what to plant and to make the most of any space. We interviewed Andrea to learn more – see below.
Foodists: What made you want to grow your own food?
Andrea: Not for the reasons you’d think. I was renting a house with a big backyard; I wanted to create a garden with impact… but without spending too much money. Seeds are cheap so I bought lots and just dove into it. It was an experiment – and a lot of fun.
Foodists: How has urban living been a challenge to your gardening practice? What are some tips from your book for getting around that?
Andrea: Finding space is always a challenge. I no longer have that big backyard; instead, I’ve got a balcony, a patio, a community garden plot, and a shared bed in our townhouse complex’s communal courtyard. I’ve had to be creative to fulfill my growing space requirements! I devote a chapter of the book to finding space to grow, from the traditional – such as community gardens – to the no-so traditional – such as growing in shared backyards or guerrilla gardening. I also cover techniques such as vertical gardening and succession planting, which can help any gardener maximize their space.
Foodists: City people are often busy people. Do the space restraints also come with time restraints? i.e. – do you have to schedule time to garden?
Andrea: Actually, it’s probably a good thing my garden is so small. If I had more space, I’d probably plant more than I could reasonably maintain! It can be hard to find the time, but for me it’s not a chore. I honestly look forward to it; I find gardening both invigorating and relaxing. Perfect for after a long day behind a keyboard!
Foodists: Given that people are so busy and often without easy access to land, why do you think growing food has become so popular?
Andrea: We’re undergoing this huge cultural shift surrounding our relationship with food. People are moving away from processed foods, and becoming more aware of where their food comes from. I think people try growing food for any number of reasons. Foodies (and Foodists) want to enhance the dishes they’re preparing; locavores want to eat more sustainably; the thrifty DIY set wants to take matters into their own hands. Growing your own edibles allows you to know exactly what went into producing them, far more so than any “organic” label on your produce. And of course, you can’t get much more local than your own backyard or balcony. But the bottom line is that growing food is satisfying. It can be challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Foodists: What are your favorite foods to grow? Does this translate into any favorite things to make?
Andrea: I love to grow arugula – it’s one of the most cold-tolerant edibles, so you can plant it early in the spring and well into fall. It’s ready to harvest within a month, and it tastes fabulous. Forget salads: I like to cook up some orzo or capellini, and toss in a few handfuls of arugula after draining. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Toss until the arugula is wilted. Simple, and lovely. I also love to grow tomatoes. Homegrown tomatoes just taste so …tomatoey!
Foodists: If you have a very small plot – and here I’m thinking about the sole north-facing window ledge at my place, often shared with my cat – what are the bare essentials you would recommend planting?
Andrea: I usually recommend planting what you love. If you’re invested in and excited about what you’re growing, you’re more likely to give it the care it needs to thrive…and be eaten. That said, herbs are usually pretty fool-proof and useful. Parsley does well in part-shade, too. Or you could have a really pretty window-box with cut-and-come-again lettuces and other salad greens. Tuck in some alpine strawberries and maybe even an edible flower such as pansy, and you’d have a window as decorative as it is tasty.
Andrea will be signing copies of her book at Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks on March 28th at 6 PM. $36 gets you into the launch party (including include food and wine) as well as a copy of the book. Buy tickets in advance by calling 604-688-6755.
Can’t make it? You’re in luck – we’re giving away a copy! See here for details.