Need you ask what the weather was like? No – you don’t need to ask. Of course the sky was gorgeously blue with the occasional glowing white cloud, the sun was warm even hot in parts of the Food Garden, and no wind ruffled our hair. And so it was at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) during our usual Thursday stint of volunteering.
I will remember this day as very much a day for the celebration of tea. R and A married last week and S brought in a freshly made chocolate cake decorated with rich red strawberries as a special treat for them and all of us. R had baked more delicious biscuits.
Coordinator Adam had the jar of dried green tea leaves ready to make a pot – yes, that’s the tea which R and I picked two weeks ago.
The boiling water was added and we noted immediate rehydration with bright green leaves floating. Then we waited to let the tea steep and cool. I felt a gentle party atmosphere as we waited in anticipation of something refreshing. Eventually a portion was poured for each of us. It smelt ‘green’ in the nicest of ways. Someone suggested it smelt of mown lawns. To our delight the taste was light and almost sweet. There were no bitter notes. A second pot of tea was made and drunk. With the strength of this success behind us, R and I decided to spend the day tip-picking the tea leaf bushes again, with the support of K towards the end: Camellia Sinensis – we were ready to prepare for more drinkable tea.
We were very surprised about the growth that had occurred on the bushes over only two weeks. This time the tip leaves seemed larger.
Over around 4 hours, perhaps three times as many tips were picked compared to the first lot.
K took some home to test her skills at preparing the leaves and Adam will be preparing the rest. I will be tip picking one of my home Camellia bushes – which is not the tea bush – and then preparing it. We are all interested to taste the difference.
It is an easy pleasure to tip-pick the tea bushes; sitting or kneeling comfortably on the mulching straw that surrounds them. Many visitors asked us what on earth we were doing. From that we had many interesting chats. Tino Carnevale was filming with the ABC for Gardening Australia in a vegetable patch nearby and we were always tense hoping that our enthusiastic voices weren’t carrying. But he happily accommodated the interest of lots of fascinated visitors during the day.
But was this all that happened in the Community Food Garden? No. There was much more. When I arrived first thing in the morning, boxes of green salad and vegetable leaves had already been picked, and others were being gathered for distribution to charity at Second Bite.
The main activity centred around the area which had been a concrete space and was now a building space; some volunteers worked up a sweat and dug out crafty weeds from an edge overlooking the space.
Others were employed on the initial work creatively creating a curved gabion wall which will define a raised space with trees and bushes and smaller plants.
Others collected rocks ready to fill the gabion wall.
Lots of heavy manual labour in that area. But an enormously productive day yet again for all concerned.
Before I left for the day, I wandered around the Food Garden. I remained interested in the growth of the garlic.
And I was fascinated with the quince tree. I don’t believe I have ever seen one in flower so I was very surprised at the large size of the flowers.
The red currant bushes were aflush with flowers and glossy new green spheres; way ahead of the currant bushes that I am growing at home.
The pineapple strawberries were flowering. In the future my taste buds will be puzzled if I get a chance to eat a strawberry with a pineapple flavour. Should be an incredible experience.
The drama of the overgrown mustard plants astounded me. Thick ribbons for stems somewhat reminded me of old fashioned thick licorice straps that I loved eating as a primary school child. I hope when we collect the seed in the future, a few seeds drop into my hands. I would love to grow these plants for the dramatic statement they make in the garden.
Overall the Food Garden appeared increasingly luscious. As one volunteer pointed out, the sharp edges of the infrastructure are now less visible. The volume of new growth in every direction and the masses of green have become the focus. Was Weed Girl at work? Yes of course; when I encountered weeds lurking beneath the tea bushes, they were pulled out. I simply couldn’t help myself!