The Column with Simone B. Michielen: The secrets of nature (and my neighbors)

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I am always surprised how much Slovenia’s nature has to offer when it comes to food. As a typical Dutch person I was (and still lam) used to buy almost everything in a shop and although there are more specialized shops in the Netherlands when it comes to food, we hardly know where everything is coming from.

Not here. I know people who will never eat potato if it isn’t grown on their own land. Beautifully kept vegetable gardens at every neighbor’s place where tomatoes seem to be red and all the plants grow. Not at my place. Green fingers, as we call it, aren’t mine and the fruit, tomatoes, and other vegetables I tried to grow this year knew exactly that they had to deal with a beginner. I don’t have a garden. I do, but with bushes, trees and flowers. I know, not a “real” garden. The vegetables and fruits are planted in pots, as it seemed a lot easier, but it is not. They need TLC, and water, which I both forget now and then. Around my house, people walk in the field to find all kinds of wild plants and if the conditions are perfect I see them going into the forest to find the most delicious mushrooms. They know what they are doing… while I am already happy that I know where to find wild garlic, of course after almost falling into it.

But I know how to cook! And sometimes people show some compassion with this city girl. When I once asked where I could find the delicious mushrooms they had, I didn’t get the location, but found a bag with mushrooms at my door. When I pass my neighbours with their beautiful garden and look a bit jealous because of all the fresh, shiny harvest they are always willing to give me some of it. And that is a good thing, which I appreciate a lot. Especially as my strawberry plants only give one per day, the tomatoes have all shades of green and I really don’t want to talk about the cucumber plant or the sweet potato I planted.

So I accepted it. The secret of where to find mushrooms? Don’t even ask! The secret of a perfect harvest from your garden? It must be in the genes! Although I also see the huge amount of work people put into it… The secret of nature? Given by all generations before. Where to get the best products from a certain farm? Ask (or follow a local group on FB)!

It makes me happy that friends are still willing to share some of their treasures, as it gives me the possibility to taste the delicacies from our region. As I am happy with the offer from local farms, which is slowly easier to find, also for somebody “new”.