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Cape Town’s Company’s Garden, begun in 1652, turns urban farm

The vegetable garden in the Company’s Garden.

It takes its name from the Dutch East India Company who first started the garden in 1652 for the victualing of their ships that plied the spice trade route between Europe and the East Indies, via The Cape of Good Hope.

IOL Property
June 24, 2014


‘This garden will showcase the historical origins of the Company’s Garden as a food-producing garden which supplied produce to the ships and sailors who travelled the spice trade route from the East Indies.

‘It will be an important means of educating people about urban agriculture, as well as the medicinal properties of herbs and vegetables.’

For garden manager Rory Phelan, promoting urban agriculture is the most important function of the project.

‘Cities are coming under more stress to supply food. The value of growing your own food can never be overstated.’

The produce will be sold to the Oranjezicht farm for now, but Phelan hopes the garden will eventually supply a farmers’ market.

‘It was built specifically to bring back the lost history of the garden during the Dutch period,’ he said. ‘The whole settlement of South Africa was based on food, and motivated by the spice trade.’

Phelan used excerpts from Jan van Riebeeck’s diary to gather information about the crops sown there in the Dutch period.

On June 19, 1652, Van Riebeeck wrote: ‘Dutch seed being sown by five men. Although young seedlings were continually being flattened by the wind, there was now enough greenery to supply the table and feed the sick. (Radish, lettuce and cress).’

On July 23, 1652 heavy rains flooded the new garden.

Read the complete article here.

Also see: Babylonstoren. Babylonstoren is one of the best preserved farm yards in the Cape Dutch tradition. The manor house from 1777, the Koornhuis (for storing wheat and hay) and the old cellar are all still in good condition.