Jane's Delicious Garden Blog

Eat Drink Pray

Posted in Travels by Jane Griffiths on the September 25th, 2009

Leaving Jhb airport I bought a copy of the best selling book Eat Pray Love, not realising some of it was set in Italy. I knew that many people had been raving about it and I needed a good book to read while on the road. After 24 hours of travelling via connections in Cairo we arrived in Rome. We met a couple also heading south to Naples and they offered us a lift in their hired mini. Bit of a tight squeeze but much quicker and cheaper than the train. She was Brazilian and worked for American Airlines and he was a doctor from the US. They were travelling on to Sorrento, about an hour after Naples. They were planning to eat in Naples at a restaurant famous for “the best pizzas in Italy.” We checked in our guide book and sure enough, there it was with this bold claim. And bold it is, as the best pizzas in Italy surely must be the best pizzas in the world! We had to try this spot. After bumbling around narrow, busy streets to find our hotel and check in, we found the restaurant – a tiny hole-in-the-wall place with a huge crowd outside. We took a ticket (number 73 – they were serving number 34). A couple of beers later we were in. The first surprise was the choice on the menu. They only served two pizzas! The second surprise was how delicious they were – I was expecting them to be good, but they were really really good! The secret was the locally grown Napoli tomatoes. And the locally made mozarella cheese. And the freshly made pizza dough. It was the first taste of how great the food in this region is. I remember the food in Italy being good, but southern Italy is even better. The following morning we were told that Julia Roberts had been at the very same restaurant the week before. Filming a movie. It seemed very fitting to find out she is playing the lead role in Eat Pray Love!

While telling this story to friends, I realised I had mangled the title and was referring to it as Eat Drink Pray. I have decided Eat Drink Pray is an appropriate title for the week we spent on the Amalfi Coast. My book will never sell in this region – everybody already grows their own vegetables, everywhere. In the smallest corner, on rooftops, on staggeringly steep terraces there are vegetables. The last of the summer crops are at their luscious best. So eat we did. With gusto. Not once have I had to ask a single restaurant to bring me salt, pepper, balsamic or any additional condiment. Every meal has been perfect. Even a fast food paninini from a train station in Sorrento was fresh and tasty. And from fast food to two star Michelin dining. The wedding dinner was held at Palazzo Sasso’s Rossellini restaurant – I lost count of the number of courses around seven.

Eat Drink Pray. This is the land of limoncello. A sweet, tart liqueur made from the peel of a variety of lemon only grown on this southern section of Italy. Every little shop sells its version of limoncello. And every courtyard of every home has lemon trees. They are grown up a trellised support, so the fully grown lemon tree forms a shady roof of a terrace, with lemons hanging within easy picking reach. Free tastings of limoncello are offered from many of the little breweries along the winding paths and alleyways. A shot of icy cold, fiery liqueur is one way to keep the legs moving up steep hills.

Eat Drink Pray – and pray I did. The narrow road which winds its way along the Amalfi coast is cut out of the sheer cliff face. In some sections I was looking out of the bus window, straight down to the Med, hundreds of metres below. The bus drivers, with cool mirror shades and hefty arm muscles, swing their passengers around corner after corner, hooting at oncoming cars (and other buses) to move out of their way. Sometimes there is no room for two vehicles to fit past one another and one has to reverse until there is an inch more space. We invented a game called ‘spot the car without a ding.’ On average only one car in twenty is free of scrapes, scratches, dings and dents.

We are back in Naples for a few days. We will be visiting Pompeii, Vesuvius and Capri – and will without a doubt return to the hole in the wall restaurant for more of the ‘best pizza in the world’

Whirlwind week

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 14th, 2009

A crazy, romantic friend has decided to get married in Italy so we are leaving tomorrow to go to the Amalfi Coast. My ‘to do’ list is gradually being done. One of the things that has been adding to my busyness recently is the VEG project. Vegetables for Egoli Gas (VEG) began when I was asked by Simon at Egoli Gas if I could help install veggie gardens at their head office premises in Milpark. A few staff members had been growing some veggies here and there and he wanted to allocate one area for these aspiring veggie gardeners and help them grow more vegetables. I had recently returned from filming in Zimbabwe, where I had seen the success of the SCC’s (Swedish Co-operative Centre) smallholder farmer programme in action. Their method of study circles to spread information, mobilise farmers and create enthusiasm was core to the project’s success. I suggested to Simon that instead of me helping install vegetable gardens, why didn’t we see how many people were interested and rather use the study circle approach. This way I would not only be teaching how to grow veg, but also providing them with the tools to spread the information to their families and communities. He loved this idea and the project soon snowballed.

Instead of just a few guys who were planting some mealies and pumpkins on a spare patch, we had more than 30 people who wanted to learn how to grow vegetables. And more came from the management sector than from ops. What had started as an idea to help a few people with some vegetables, has turned into a very successful corporate and team building exercise. I have been holding a series of workshops with the team leaders and providing them with the material they need to pass the information on to their teams via study circles.

On Saturday members of the project gathered with their families to start clearing the land – nothing like a morning spent clearing dusty black jacks and monster bug weed to bond a team. A couple of sponsors have come on board to help them start their garden: Neutrog are providing organic fertiliser, Mayford are giving packets of seeds and a huge pile of organic compost is already on site, donated by Earth to Earth.

Before any clearing started:


After the clearing:


Clearing in progress:


Families helping:


Hard work!


With some of the team leaders:


Everybody was delighted to discover raised beds under all the growth. They even found a few carrots and onions – somebody has been here before us!


Discussing finer points of compost:


Sweet Shu Shu

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 10th, 2009

Last week we said a sad farewell to our 14-year old Shu Shu. She was a beloved member of our family.

RIP Shu Shu.






Owl House

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 2nd, 2009

We now have a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls living in the huge blue gum across the road. Last weekend we heard them hooting, which was unusual during the day. We went to look and there they were, in broad daylight, on a low branch. We grabbed our video and stills cameras to get some shots – it has been been difficult to get them at night! Suddenly Tilu spotted something at the base of the tree and I saw it was a fluffly little owlet. I stopped Tilu in her tracks and spent the next hour getting closer and closer to it, until eventually it let me touch it. The parents were sitting in the branch above, hooting away at me. I tried to reassure them that I was taking their baby to a safer place, where it wouldn’t get run over, eaten by a hungry dog/cat/street kid or worse, used for muti. But I don’t speak very good Owl so I’m not sure they understood me. The owl expert who came to pick the chick up today said they would have dive bombed me if they thought I was hurting their baby, so maybe my Owl is not too bad!

A few days later we discovered the nest – much lower than we thought. And we could see two more babies sticking their heads out to have a good look at us. They apparently spend their first few days out of the nest on the ground, hopping around and learning to fly. The nest is above the street and they will never last a few days on the ground there, so we can hopefully rescue them all.

The next book is on its way. I finished and delivered the manuscript last week. Jane’s Delicious Kitchen! However, there is still plenty of work ahead. Every recipe has to made and photographed. Coincidentally, one of our clients asked us to produce a tv commercial for them on a cook book series! So it seems that food and cook books is where I am meant to be at the moment.