The Company’s Garden Vegetable Garden: Project aims to restore part of original food garden purpose eg visitor attraction, educ. resource.
"In the 17th century, when ships were plying the Spice Trade route from Western Europe around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean to the spice islands of the East, the Company’s Garden, owned by the Dutch East India Company, played a pivotal role in being a stopover point to provide sailors with the fresh fruit and vegetables they needed to continue their journey and escape the ravages of scurvy – a debilitating disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C. Without these provisions, the spice trade to Western Europe could not have developed as it did, so the history of the garden is deeply entwined with the political, economic and social fabric that shaped the course of global development – not to mention the genesis of South Africa’s ‘rainbow nation’, with slaves being brought in from Malaysia and the settlement of Europeans from Holland, England and elsewhere.
It is against this rich historical background that the decision was taken to re-introduce a vegetable garden to the Company’s Garden, an aspect which has been lost over time. The Company’s Garden VOC Vegetable Garden project is to be established in the existing car park of the maintenance area adjacent to the Rose Garden, and will exhibit the elements found in the Dutch period, such as ‘lei-water’ type irrigation, supplied by Table Mountain spring water, historical vegetables and the quadrant pattern in keeping with the original layout. It will also include herbs and fruit trees, edible indigenous plants, a demonstration food garden, a waterwise garden and an indigenous medicinal herb garden.
The purpose of the vegetable garden will not only be as an historical reference but also as a resource to exhibit and teach urban-agriculture skills to the young and anyone interested in growing their own food in an urban setting, to educate school and community groups regarding the medicinal properties of herbs and to provide a platform to encourage environmental awareness and green projects in an urban environment. There is also the aim of creating a working garden, with the produce used as a means for entrepreneurial enterprise, for example the use of herbs and scented products as a raw material for value-added products like candles, oils, soaps and so forth, and to encourage tourists to invest in such greening projects as a means of carbon footprint offsetting.
Food is the most basic of needs, and in these hard economic times most people can benefit from taking a look back at how things were done before the advent of supermarkets, and to experience the rewards of harvesting one’s own produce. The Company’s Garden aims to showcase this, in turning back the clock to simpler times.