THE fruit and vegetables we eat today are very different to those our grandparents knew.

The growth of big agriculture, with it’s emphasis on high yielding varieties, has seen varieties of vegetables like corn, cabbage, cucumber and peas shrink dramatically, with some disappearing altogether.

Unfortunately, selecting for higher yields has often been at the expense of the flavour and nutrition – which explains why your grandparents say fruit and vegetables just don’t taste as good as they used to.

Thankfully there are still small-scale farmers doing their bit to keep food diversity alive, like organic farmer Glenyce Creighton, of Myocum, who grows varieties of fruit and veg you’ll never find in the supermarkets.

Large white-skinned cucumbers grown from seeds passed down from her father, spiky skinned horned melons, chokoes, and potatoes with purple flesh – the kind of vegetables big commercial growers wouldn’t bother with.

“I don’t have a lot of everything, but I have a good mixture,” she said.

Often her vegetables have qualities commercially available varieties lack, like her old- style pale skinned cucumbers, which stay crisper and keep much longer than your standard cukes.

Her variety of produce also makes her stall at the farmers markets an interesting place to visit, as there’s always something new to try.

The Mullumbimby-born farmer says one of her favourite discoveries in recent years has been the loofah plant, a large zucchini shaped fruit that grows on vines. The young fruit can be eaten in curries and stir-fries, while the mature, dried version of the fruit can be used as a natural sponge and exfoliator.

“When I lived in Mullum the little old man next door used to have them on our fence line and I never knew what they were. When we came out here we started growing them and they’ve been doing really well,” she said.

Other goodies on her organic farm include rosellas (a native edible flower); bush nuts (the original macadamia nut); free-range eggs from chooks, ducks and turkeys, and an array of colourful flowers including hippeastrums, liliums, and gladioli.

She says there’s never a dull moment on the farm: “I like fiddling around and trying different things,” she said.

“You’re learning as you go and you never stop learning.”

• Story and photo by Kate O’Neill