The public must not forget the pleasure of good food, genuine produce, which nowadays is more valued in the kitchen by home cooks and chefs.

Yet pollutants are almost everywhere, including within the food industry. Unfortunately, safety concerns are overridden by trade concerns. Some within the restaurant or food industry go too far for profit at any cost.

In addition, some technological advances, especially regarding genetically engineered food, have been very fast-paced. As a result, products are being pushed into the marketplace without being proven safe. All over the world, concerned citizens and governments have been trying to take precautionary measures.

Working for the last 20 years as a chef, I have sought a deeper understanding of good organic food, such as herbs and vegetables: how you grow things right from the soil to the plate. As a chef, I’ve wanted to know how to maintain a successful and sustainable crop and how I could combine all of the grown organic produce to benefit the customers in my restaurant.

If we eat organic and sustainably farmed produce, meat and fish, we will be physically and mentally healthier. Average organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron and chromium, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants. Growing your own herbs and vegetables is safer and often more effective than highly purified compounds in pharmaceutical drugs.

As we delve into the wonderful topic of life cycles and see the rich history and understanding of herbs and vegetables – as ingredients in cuisine, as medicines and home beauty – we can better appreciate the most powerful plants. Organic herbs and vegetables have nurtured, sustained and healed us and have improved our quality of life in so many ways.

St Georges Restaurant in Havelock North works very hard to show its biodiversity, as that is its point of difference compared to other local restaurants. It is the only restaurant in Hawke’s Bay and possibly the North Island to support Mother Nature with the largest on-site herb and vegetable garden.

Fundamentally, St Georges’ philosophy is to grow as much organic produce as possible. Our garden produces much of what is on the customer’s plate. The art in composing a great garden and creating a successful point of difference is evident in the restaurant’s recipes. St Georges Restaurant offers guests farm-to-table dining as a way of creating unique aromas, colours and flavours from the most authentic produce and sustainable garden.

We also use local organic farmers, for example, Lawson’s True Earth, Harmony Farm free-range pork, Bostock’s free-range chicken, and many more. Equally, we approach people who own small pieces of land because they grow handfuls of lemons and plums etc.

We believe the cost of the meal shouldn’t be over the top just because it’s organic or free-range. Growing your own helps to keep the cost down for the consumer. It’s time for lots of chefs and cooks to learn that quality isn’t only measured by the appearance of nutritional balance, but that such artificial concoctions of food may become our daily poison and physical prison.

Personally, I want to tell everyone: eat well and live well.

Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms and healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. So while we are dominating this planet, we still need to preserve its diversity.

My fascination with the green world started early in life. My earliest memories are of how seeds and plants responded to a little moisture in soil and how vegetables such as pumpkin noticeably grew in size from one day to the next. As kids, before school we use to go and water the garden with our hands and pots; otherwise there would be no food on the plate. I’m totally fortunate in sunny Hawke’s Bay to be able to continue childhood memories of how to grow and sustain our own crop without any pesticides.

In my opinion the government should make compulsory a gardening project to teach each and every child how to grow organic and chemical-free food; how to eat what they have grown in the back yard. It’s important they learn when they are young that it is easy to understand biodynamics. I believe there should be more awareness of the power of chemistry within our plants to increase immunity, rather than always referring to pharmaceutical drugs.

Many kids today suffer a disconnection from natural herbs and vegetable plants which offer a life-giving elixir that can sustain us physically, mentally and spiritually. In my life, I received so many opportunities to learn about plants – seeing, touching, harvesting and preparing them in the world’s best kitchens. Providing healthy food using Mother Nature’s most powerful herbs and vegetables has brought me closer to nature.

Organic farming has become one of the most consistently growing economic sectors on the planet. New research has shown that organic farming is helping people live longer. If adopted on a wider scale, it would give us all a better chance of surviving as well as slowing climate change. I believe people need to support the biodynamic farming eateries and chefs need to make food that is delicious and sustainably produced.

Finally, I want to send a message to future generations that we can make things grow and taste better. I’d like to think that we can maintain a sustainable world which we can all appreciate and have a better chance to save ourselves.

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