When we talk about what food we are going to eat, most of us think of those ingredients simply as things we go to the store to buy. And indeed, that’s the extent of our involvement, usually.
About a year and a half ago I read Food Not Lawns, and it began to change my outlook on food. Not to mention on lawns. Around the same time I read Diet For a Dead Planet, and though only part of the book focused on supermarkets, enough information was in there to leave me horrified.
“How can I shop in a grocery store again? Ever?” Those were my thoughts.
The reality, somewhat unfortunately, is that I am dependent on the grocery stores. Even when I’m buying as much as I can from farmers markets and growing as much of my own food as possible, I’m still having to supplement at the grocery store.
That’s just modern life, in many ways. The best we can hope for, it seems, is to grow as much as possible in our own backyards or in community gardens or in the empty lot down the street, and get as much from farmers markets or local growers as possible. Lighten our supermarket burden.
This year I started gardening. I have a small patio, and I had no idea what the soil was like under the decorative rocks, or really any idea what I was doing. I just went for it, figuring the worst that could happen is nothing would grow, which was the guaranteed outcome if I didn’t try at all.
My tomato plants are doing amazing. The cucumbers are trying to take over the patio. The peppers also have done really well. I never did get around to planting greens – I ran out of the rock-moving energy to clear a spot. The eggplant never did anything at all.
So the first year is a resounding success. I couldn’t keep up with the cucumbers, and I’ve struggled to keep up with the tomatoes. It is really amazing how much food we can grow in pretty small spaces. The thing I can’t imagine growing is grains. That’s what would keep me going to the grocery store. Oh, and spices, and cocoa and tofu and…well, a lot of things. But I can say that I haven’t bought a cucumber or a tomato in about three months, and rarely have I needed to buy a pepper.
Plus, as it turns out, gardening is a lot of fun. Watching things grow, knowing that they started from little seeds, and ended up being a foot taller than me (I’m short, it is true), producing fruit I can walk outside to get.
Starting a recipe, and seeing that it calls for a can of diced tomatoes, and being able to walk outside, and pick straight from the vine what will be used for dinner that night? Really, it is a wonderful feeling.
Next year I hope to grow even more. Someday I might put myself on the waiting list for a spot at a nearby community garden. But really, I want to put to play some of the other things that were talked about in Food Not Lawns. I want to take back, in small degrees, unused public spaces that could grow food to nourish a community. I’m not exactly sure how I’d start, but it is always in my head.