Living intern Elke Talbot shares how she, her mother and her sister turned a passion for gardening into a thriving family business on the Caribbean island of Tortola:
I was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, where my parents had settled decades before. I grew up surrounded by a family garden, lush and mesmerizing. My mother created a world of color, texture, smells, and tastes on our land, which sheltered our little Caribbean home. I took this beauty for granted growing up—to me it just looked like a playground. It wasn’t until my older sister became a gardener, that I too became totally intrigued with idea of growing things.
My mother had moved us to the States for handful of years, while renting out our home on Tortola, in order to introduce us to the world outside of the Virgin Islands. As soon as I began university, my mother officially returned to our house, knowing that the garden would be in dire need of attention. In the past, my mother had casually suggested that she wanted to grow micro greens. With my mother’s green thumb, practical skills and guidance, my sister’s professional knowledge, and my enthusiastic help when I was home during school breaks, the three of us turned this idea into reality and created a micro green and flower business—Mountain Herb and Flower.
With some planning and hard work, our garden yielded trays upon trays of tiny little vegetable, herb, and even grain (such as amaranth) sprouts in a few short months. We had always grown flowers—all beautiful and unique to the Caribbean–and people had been flocking to my mother’s flowers for years, so we had to include those in our business. The micro greens were a successful experiment, and once my mom began pitching the idea to local chefs around the islands, the demand for our little greens grew. Before long, we were growing carrot, shiso, amaranth, basil, cilantro, beet, chard, daikon radish, sunflower, pea tendrils, corn, kale, mustard, and others. Next, we introduced edible flowers—nasturtium, borage, and even star fruit blossoms.
Today, Mountain Herb and Flower supplies many of the finest restaurants and yachts on Tortola, as well as the surrounding islands, with a variety of organic, carefully clipped micro greens, edible flowers, and tropical bouquets. Our little business transformed our garden, adding even more color and edible treats to our home and the island. The unexpected start of our business, a result of energized curiosity and hard work, brought our family closer, bonding over the love of creating life from the soil.