This is my 22th article in the Mercury Food and Wine supplement.
Last month we were excited to have our good friends Marius and Karianne visit us from Norway. At our final meal together Marius offered his observations on the farm and on the KZN and South African food scene. He offered comparisons with their experience in Norway.
The first comparison was between the length of growing seasons. In Norway they only have three to four months of prime growing time compared to our relative all year growing season here in KZN. I say relative because we still have seasonality.
At my first Organic inspection, one of the inspectors was on exchange from Norway, where he was an organic farmer. He showed us a photo of ice crystals on his window pan,e and jested that this “ice rose” was his main crop.
We are very fortunate in our ability to grow all year round, but this also has its drawbacks. Farmers are expected to produce all year round and this does not give the farm or the farmer an opportunity to rest and recover.
Winter in the temperate regions provides the space to do just that. The cold also kills off pests and diseases, and gives the farmer a clean slate to start over in spring.
The next comparison was between the variety of available fresh produce. This of course is tied to the all-year growing season in KZN. Marius told an anecdote about a farmer in Norway whose workers took him to court because their supplied meals consisted of Salmon seven days a week. The judge ruled that he could feed them Salmon six days a week and another fish variety on the seventh day!
Marius had been with me on my deliveries to a Fruit and Vegetable chain I supply and was amazed at the variety and freshness of the produce on display. I had imagined that we were the poor cousins when it came to choice but I am evidently wrong. He commented that it was easy to be a vegetarian in South Africa but not in Norway.
Marius and Karianne also travelled up to the Midlands and joined me at the Karkloof Farmers market on a Saturday morning. They were very very complimentary about the quality and variety of food on offer there.
All in all, in their opinion, South Africa and KZN rated very highly in the availability, quality and freshness of our food. They also felt that food was relatively inexpensive here compared to Norway, and that was taking the exchange rate into account. Their observations were an eye opener to me as we tend to take our bounty for granted.
South Africans seem to suffer from the “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome, but I think its time to recognise that our grass is a very rich shade of green.