I’m passionate about gardening. My dad was a farmer – he grew bananas, sugar cane and yams and sold them by the tonne. He was from Jamaica, where I was from originally. I’ve been in Canada for 30 years now, and I’ve always wanted to have my own backyard. When I moved to my first house, I planted a peach tree, a plum tree and cherries. They all bore fruit. I learned my techniques from my dad.
During COVID, as soon as I get home, I’m in my garden. When I’m not working, I’m in my garden. It helps me relax and I don’t think about anything else. My garden encourages me – I get excited planting seeds and seeing them grow into beautiful plants and vegetables. Sometimes my wife has to come find me at 9 or 10 o’clock at night and get me out of my garden. I’m just garden crazy.
In the summer, I planted everything I could get my hands on, like okra, kale and callaloo. I grew twelve types of peppers and I made a hot sauce. A few people have tried it and now everyone wants it. Everyone talks about my sauce. I think it makes them happier because they get something that is locally grown, is authentic and contributes to a good meal.
I love to exchange ideas and culture. When we were planning ‘Breakfast Around the World’ at the Lakeside Café, my manager, Dayalan came to me and said, “Do you want to offer something?” I said, “Why not? I can do a Jamaican day.” I love working here so I do what I can do to help.
At the end of the gardening season, I dry all my herbs, make tea and green liquid spice. I will also flash freeze some vegetables and give them away to family, friends and neighbours. Giving and sharing gives me joy.
I grew up in rural Jamaica in the countryside, and we didn’t have electricity, running water or a gas stove. Coffee and cereal were luxuries. I learned how to be satisfied with the basics.
The way I look at life is that simplicity is key. Worrying about a situation you can’t do anything about doesn’t make any sense. I grew up in rural Jamaica in the countryside, and we didn’t have electricity, running water or a gas stove. Coffee and cereal were luxuries. I learned how to be satisfied with the basics. I enjoy what I have and I don’t worry about what I don’t have.
During COVID, you just need to find an avenue to help de-stress and find a way to lessen your anxiety. My avenue is my garden. I love my garden and when I’m there, I feel good.
Paul Davis is a Dietary Aide at the Lakeside Café at St. Joseph’s Health Centre.
As told to Natalie Leung. Photos by Medical Media. This interview has been edited and condensed.