One of the things I miss about not having a house with a yard is gardening. Not that I did it much in New Orleans, but I did grow tomatoes, herbs and other things in pots on my patio. Nothing tastes better than a tomato you've grown yourself. And I miss fresh tomatoes as we travel. We never seem to be where they're picking them. I do have some herbs that travel with me and a cactus pot....
I hope you enjoy this article and it inspires you to plan something!
Reprinted with permission....
Dear Kitchen Gardener,
If you could choose between a golden egg and golden goose, which would you choose? Unless you live in a small apartment or have a severe case of goosaphobia, you'd be birdbrained not to choose the bird. Not only would it provide you with golden eggs, but also a little "black gold" for your compost pile. This fairy-tale choice is so clear that you'd think it'd be easy for us to see similar real-world opportunities, but many of them literally slip right through our fingers each year in the form of seeds. When we plant seeds, most of us are thinking "eggs" when we should be thinking "geese" and I include myself in this group. I don't do nearly as much seedsaving as I could. I don't have just one excuse but a whole list of them which, conveniently for me, is the same list I use for not flossing my teeth. While I'm still a bit birdbrained about seedsaving, I can proudly say that my garden has become the golden goose of garlic production. Not only did it produce enough to meet my family’s needs for a whole year, but we grew enough bulbs that we didn't have to buy any seed garlic. The bulbs we harvested last summer and cloves we planted last fall are now producing a bountiful harvest of garlic scapes just as our storage bulbs are running out. And the next crop of fresh bulbs won't be far behind insuring the cycle continues.I realize that one suburban family's supply of garlic may seem like a small victory for global food security, but garlic's more of a bellwether crop than you might think. It can be successfully grown in diverse soils and climates, used in a wide variety of dishes and yet it’s a crop which curiously few home gardeners grow themselves. Why? I imagine that many take it for granted because garlic like so many other foods these days has been set "free" upon the world and is no longer bounded by the seasons and geography. It's available whenever, wherever, and however we want it, in bulbs, minced, and flaked. When we dig deeper, though, we learn that what appears to be the free market at work is not quite what it seems. China accounts for 78% of the world's garlic production while the US ranks fifth with 1.4%, the majority of that coming from a single county (Santa Clara) in California. So, technically-speaking, garlic shoppers at large US grocery stores do have a choice, Chinese or Californian, but it’s not nearly as big or diverse as they think.With July 4th and other independence day celebrations just around the corner, people will have other options to ponder as they plan their holiday meals. For too many in the US, the “choices” will be Bud or Miller or an industrially-produced hotdog or an industrially-produced hamburger. I don’t know about you, but I think our national holiday deserves better than barbecued mystery-meat and water-flavored beer. I am encouraging everyone I know (and 50 governors I don't know) to think outside the big box store mentality this July 4th by sourcing their holiday meals as locally, sustainably, and directly as they can. In doing so, we discover other ways of procuring good foods and eating that are better for us, our local farmers, our health and that of the planet.
Moving towards food independence doesn't mean having to do everything and grow everything on our own. It's about learning what we, our soils, climate, and local farmers can produce, effortlessly or with some coaxing, and committing to eat more of these things when nature offers them up to us. In doing so, we discover that we have more choices and freedom than we realized.
Plus, in striving for greater food independence for yourself, your family and community, you’ll be joining a revolutionary tradition that transcends time, cultures and borders. The battle for food independence is inextricably entwined with the history of political independence. Whether it’s the “Sons of Liberty” tossing crates of tea into Boston Harbor or hungry French peasants storming the Bastille armed only with farm tools and stale baguettes (a lethal weapon, if you've ever been on the business end of one), history offers inspiring examples of what small bands of people can achieve when they put their mind to something.
So, don’t just celebrate your independence this summer, savor it in all its freshness, localness, and drip-down-your-chin juiciness. We can’t know it for sure, but I suspect it’s what the “Founding Farmers” would want us to do.
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PPS: Got any little gardeners in your family? Tell them about the "I'm a Victory Grower" contest.