The Edible Balcony

Indira NaidooA book. A book by Indira Naidoo. A book by Indira Naidoo about growing vegies on your inner-city balcony. Could there be any trifecta much more exciting than that?

The Edible Balcony tackles the problem most of us environmentally conscious city folk struggle with: How to grow edible goodies we shouldn’t—but do—go to the supermarket for. More importantly, how to do so easily and sustainably?

Naidoo’s produce-to-plate ‘epiphany’ came when she tasted a flavoursome tomato at the farmers’ markets—it far exceeded anything store-bought. It was, the farmer told her, something she could grow herself. Who’d a thunk it? And no, I’m not being sarcastic. It’s easy to lose sight of where our food comes from; easier still to think it’s more convenient to get someone to do the growing and picking labour.

Naidoo set out not just to grow some vegies, but to—as any good reporter does—research it, write about it, and arguably make it tax deductible. The result is this plant-to-plate how-to guide for busy inner-city brown thumbs such as me.

The problem is—and I completely admit it’s my failing and my failing alone—the book’s comprehensive. At this stage in my scatteringly busy life and beginner gardener regime, I probably need something a little smaller and more manageable.

But I have to stress that that’s wholly and solely my fault. Naidoo’s showing us it’s relatively easy to grow an array of vegies on our balconies, but she’s also showing us that you have to properly commit. Knowing her full-time media background (i.e. one that involves insane hours and insaner travel), I thought it’d be a little more pop things in a pot and hey presto.

Pistachio RisottoIt’s an invaluable lesson, though. It’s made me appreciate where my food comes from just that bit more. And it hasn’t scared me off. I am going to do this, but I think I need to back myself into it by first cooking one of Naidoo’s recipes and then attempting to grow some of its ingredients. Risotto with Zucchini Flowers, Peas, and Fresh Pistachios (pictured courtesy of my dodgy phone pics) might just be that goer.

The one inescapable criticism I have of The Edible Balcony is that the font really, really doesn’t fly. I’m obsessed with typography and this handwriting-meets-remedial font—I don’t know its name and don’t want to—does what would otherwise be a good book a complete disservice.

That written, the images of Naidoo tending her garden and the meals she produces are exactly as they should be—warm, personal, beautiful, and enough to make you want to start a balcony garden of your own. I know for a fact my friendly neighbourhood possum, who’s infamous for his night-time raids of my apartment, would very much appreciate such a garden to fossick through …

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.