Dancehall artist Assassin has been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit, but his garden is still his favorite place in the world. In the backyard of his Stony Hill home in St. Andrew, Jamaica, the husband and father of four has created a fruitful haven out of their land that's a little over the size of a basketball court. He tends to the plants and herbs with the help of a gardener and his adorable children, whom he teaches the value in patience and nourishment. On his Instagram, Assassin uses the #BackyardToKitchen hashtag under his bright photos and videos of the growth in his garden.
When he stopped by The FADER office in May, he talked about how he's made his backyard a produce sanctuary and how to start your own this summer.
1. Lots of variety in your life
ASSASSIN: We have ackee and bread fruit which is kind of like a staple of the Jamaican experience. Ackee is a part of the national dish. Bread fruit is a fruit that you can roast and has like a bread consistency and you can fry it. Then there’s sour sap which makes a really good drink and I love the drink so I have a few of those trees.
Then there’s orange, lime, and lemon and then there’s a naseberry tree, mulberry tree, cinnamon and of course plantains and bananas. Plants, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage and sweet potato, cassava and yams. Who got the yams? [laughs] Pineapples and I just put in some strawberries for the first time. Okra, carrots. I have two plants and they were sold to me as jamun which is a berry originating from India, but everyone who comes here says, it’s a ribena plant.
2. Bananas will give you lots of energy
Bananas are good. It’s easy to have a banana plant. It’s a big plant but it’s not too invasive because it’s very soft. It’s self-replenishing. That’s a good start and that’s not a lot of maintenance. For the folks on the more tropical side of things you can get away with it.
3. You'll save money at the supermarket
I’ve been giving the peppers away and sometimes the bananas are overwhelming with the big bunches but we haven’t bought bananas in two years and we have them every week. The idea is to have enough to serve the house and not have to buy anything that we’re growing. It’s a therapeutic aspect and there's a certain fulfillment that you get from that. You kind of also feel like you’re beating the system because you don’t have to buy things since they’re right outside.
4. Use your garden as a learning experience
It’s a good experience to share with the kids to get them to have chores, and to pick and plant things. Learning to take care of something and the lesson in even understanding that you reap what you sow.
They can experience that in a very new way, like you plant something, you care of it, and then you reap something from it. I think there's so much in that.
5. Don't rush the process
I count the amount on the trees and I do stock taking and I’m like, “That one should be ready next week.”
I’m not reaping right it now because the coconut trees are young but, I also love coconut water. It may take another 2 or 3 years for them to grow. That’s the next thing, it’s not all about instant gratification. It’s understanding that some things you’re going to have to wait for. When you start to reap, it’s great.
6. Eating healthy doesn't mean sacrificing your favorite foods
I'm not a “no sugar at all” person, but be moderate about it. I used to have a tall glass of juice with every meal. That is not the case anymore, now just water. From time to time I may feel like I want to have some juice, but it's no longer an overbearing part of my diet. My suggestion would just to be moderate and to be aware of what you're consuming. If you’re having meat, not too much. My wife is very much into the "clean eating." She'll be like, “Let's go weekdays no meat,” and there are so many alternatives.
I love food, and I hate to feel like I'm sacrificing having a meal that I'm going to enjoy for something else. And so it's like finding the balance in that. Why does it seem like most of the things that are good for you, are the things that you can not enjoy.
7. Remember that eating clean is good for the mind, body, and soul
Understanding your true possessions are your mind and your body. You can lose everything else. My goal is to take care of both as much as possible. Eating well and whatever isn’t just about the benefit of that but I find it to be mentally be a very good thing.