Friday 10 February 2012

How distant are we from our agrarian roots?

Booby trapped tomato?

Two small things that happened recently made me think about how far most of us are removed from our agrarian roots.

One side of my family grew up on a farm - I did not. Although I worked and played on plenty whilst growing up. As a kid, I stayed on a family farm where there was still horse tack hanging in the barn from the days of horse drawn plows, and milking stools from when cows were milked by hand in that same barn. For fun, we'd get un-pasteurised, un-homogenised milk from the local dairy and churn it into butter in a hand cranked churn. That's not for the faint hearted - yet it is something my parents and their siblings did every day as kids. In my parents day, most people worked in agriculture, or were directly related to someone who worked on the land. When Dad was running his own business in the 1950s, he was occasionally paid in chickens and other produce. Interestingly enough, you can still pay your school fees in Papua New Guinea in pigs.

I doubt most people these days could tell the difference between cow crap and sheep crap. And they wouldn't have the sense to avoid stepping in either.

The first thing was that we visited some people who have a lot of fruit trees in their yard. They had tossed a few large boxes full of fresh fruit aside - it all looked good, and I asked what was wrong with it.

"Worms", was the answer.

Sure enough, I cut one in half, and the delicious looking fruit was full of wriggling white worms.

When we got home, I noticed that my tomato crop was starting to look a bit dodgy. Then I harvested a few kilos, started cutting them open and found that about 5% were also infested with worms.

It was then that I remembered that I have never, ever seen my parents bite into any form of fruit. They always slice it up first. The same went for all my uncles and aunties - they always had a clasp knife on them, often attached to their belt. If you visit the Flemington Markets in Sydney at 0600 on a Saturday morning, half the fruit vendors will be wielding knives and slicing open samples of their fruit to show the passing customers that their produce is fresh and good - and free of bugs. 

That's not something I ever expect to see happening in Coles or Woolworths.

Carrying that sort of thing these days is a good way to get locked up - the cops will be all over you for carrying an offensive weapon.

Arsey tomato?
Try explaining to a judge (or a fresh young copper) that you need a knife to cut up fruit and vegies to inspect for insects.......they'll think you're mad.

The stuff we get in the supermarket is so sanitised and perfect, we forget that fruit is in fact very tasty to a wide variety of insects and animals, and it's also a great place to raise your young. I haven't smothered the garden in chemicals - not because I am against chemicals and sprays - it's just that I'm too busy/too lazy to spray most of the time, so through sheer laziness, I have an "organic" garden. 

So now that I have a garden and am growing some of my own food, I've adopted the habits of my forebears and am now religiously cutting everything open before eating it.

Yeah, I know how that sounds - "I'm turning into my bloody parents". Well, some of the things they do are really quite sensible. But we rarely stop and think why we do the things we do. 


cav said...

I have to put my glasses on when cutting tomatoes.

That way I can see the seeds moving.

kc said...

I wear my glasses all the time, cav - Dad made me do that as a teenager, so I'd stop losing them. Now, it saves time spent LOOKING for them.

Seems a sensible way to check my little garden crops, too!