We all enjoy a tasty meal, and there's nothing like food fresh from the garden to produce the best flavours. For generations people around South Australia have toiled in their gardens to produce fresh fruit and vegetables for their families and for sale.
Even before European settlement the Kaurna people worked the land with fire stick farming to ensure that it produced food for themselves and to sustain the animals that they hunted.
The new free Losing the Plot Exhibition at the Migration Museum tells the story of food gardening in South Australia - across time and across cultures. Beginning with the stories of indigenous food gardening right through to the present day, the exhibition examines how things have changed.
Market Gardens South of Adelaide 1900 (Image: State Library SA D4645/5)
Before World War 2 large market gardens were common in Adelaide. I can remember seeing rows of glasshouses in Fulham Gardens as a child, and there are still a few remnants of metropolitan vineyards in the Marion council district. Campbelltown too was renown for its market gardens with a high population of Italian market gardeners.
Most of the market gardens produced fruit and vegetables for the East End Markets and later the Adelaide Fruit & Produce Exchange. After the war the population of Adelaide grew steadily and housing encroached on the large suburban market gardens. Housing block sizes steadily reduced in size, and the vegetable garden plot shrank too.
With changes in South Australia's migrant and ethnic mix, so too did the profile of South Australian food producing gardeners. Losing the Plot traces these changes and looks at the various communities who grew fruit and vegetables in Adelaide to see how they have changed with time.
In the nineteenth century Chinese and German market gardens were common, capable of producing high yields in a small area. After World War 2 Europeans - notably Italians and Greeks showed their traditional skills in market gardening for decades. By the 1970's a new wave of refugees from Vietnam worked the land and fed many of us in Adelaide, selling their fruit and vegetables at places such as the Wild at Hart Market.
Gardening techniques have improved significantly in the last hundred years. While suburban gardeners have been losing the plot, large new commercial gardens have been supplying our fruit and vegetables using advanced techniques such as hydroponics.
Home vegetable gardens now are generally very small - often only a couple of raised garden beds, and there is an increasing focus on growing heirloom plants. Heirloom plants are old time varieties of vegetables that grow true from seed, and most people believe have better flavour and appearance. Popular heirloom varieties of tomatoes include Black Russian, Rouge de Marmande, Grosse Lisse and the amazingly prolific Broad Ripple Yellow Currant tomatoes. Many of these heirloom varieties are available from the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers' Market or the Diggers Shop at the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide.
A Touch Screen With Videos of the History of Gardening in Adelaide
If you haven't tried heirloom plants straight from the home garden, you're missing out on a wonderful taste experience! As part of the Losing the Plot Exhibition the Productive Garden Co have installed planter boxes at the Migration Museum which will be used by visiting school children. Perhaps they will be lucky enough to sample the produce too.
The Losing the Plot Exhibition at the Migration Museum is a free event and runs from September 12 to June 26 2016. It's a wonderful look at the history of gardening in Adelaide, with glimpses into our fascinating multicultural heritage. It includes many old photos and some garden tools on loan from the Australian Museum of Gardening.
The Migration Museum is promising more free events with a focus on food gardening - after seeing this free exhibition I can't wait!