Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Itching to get back in the garden?

Are your fingers itching to get started in your garden? If you're an avid gardener like I am, you are probably already looking through your seed catalogs to see what you will grow next and can't wait to get outside.

Or maybe you've never grown a thing in your life, but are willing to give it a go. Did you know that a lot of the vegetables we use in our Dutch cuisine can be easily grown?

If you do, you are in good company. Besides growing fruits and vegetables on balconies, in back gardens and side yards, the Dutch also have almost a quarter million volkstuinen where they spend much of their time. These "gardens for the people" are usually small plots of land that are leased (often indefinitely) from either the city administration or from gardening associations who own or manage these plots of lands. The land is usually on the outskirts of the city or town. Some plots are small and can be found along railways and roads, others are larger and can even contain small huts or greenhouses. The largest volkstuin complexes even have small petting zoos, nature reserves and during the growing season, even small farmers markets.

Many families spend whole summers on their volkstuin place, if the local agreement allows. It's close to home and gezellig, as a volkstuin always has several plots with other gardeners and their families. People share crops, seeds and chats alongside short fences. I'm sure you can imagine that, if you live "third floor up, in the back" and hardly see the light of day, spending a summer outside, with trees, a splash pool, and your family around you is sheer delight!


Growing foods and flowers also creates an opportunity to make memories. It's fun to share this with kids or grandkids, and gives you an opportunity to share your heritage and family stories. If anything, you'll eat healthier foods that you have grown yourself, or grow those that are hard to come by in the store! And if you don't know how to grow anything, you can always ask your local master gardeners in your local university extension office, or that neighbor with the beautiful flowers and vegetables down the road- as gardeners, we're always happy to share information.

I've added a page, Dutch Gardening, to the website, with a short description of traditional Dutch vegetables, and links to places where you can order seeds. Take a look and see if your favorite vegetable is listed. If not, give us a holler in the comments and we'll add them!

Happy gardening!

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