Sunday, January 11, 2009

Inch by inch, row by row

I'm gonna make this garden grow... It is amazing how a connection to the soil and growing things is fundamental to our well being. It is also important to our survival as individuals, as a society and even our survival as a race on this earth. It is also amazing how far away from the soil our society has drifted in its never ending pursuit of prepackaged, preprocessed, almost pre-digested food. I was standing the line at my neighborhood supermarket some time ago, I was supposed to get some vegetables for dinner. I believe I had a couple of artichokes, when a younger girl, probably in her twenties, asked what they were. I guess I stared at her for a second to see if she was serious and explained that they were artichokes. She wanted to know if we ate them or what. Now, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I do have to admit that some people probably do not eat artichokes regularly. But, because of the question, I got into a discussion with the attendant, and she indicated that this was a regular experience. Younger people did not recognize vegetables.

This experience has actually happened to me twice. I have also read about people having similar experiences. We have almost always had a garden, unless we were renting or living abroad, and over the years, I have found that most people cannot identify the plants growing in the garden. They do not recognize squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, or nearly any other plant. If you show most teenagers a vegetable, not only will they not recognize what it is, they will find it impossible to tell you whether it grows on a vine, a bush or a tree. Living in a warm climate, like we do, we have citrus trees. Many people who visit us have never seen a grapefruit or orange growing on a tree.

I see this as a problem. If we lose the ability to grow food, who will grow our gardens? When you visit the vegetable section of the supermarket, you will find little stickers on all the products, usually telling you that the produce was grown in Mexico, Chile, the Philippines or somewhere else. I recognize that there are adults who grew up hating to eat their vegetables. As for me, I love so many kinds of vegetables that I can't imagine that attitude. You cannot match the quality and taste of garden fresh vegetables with any factory farm produced Styrofoam imitations. Also, growing your own food, you become aware of what goes into it and you don't have eat ten or fifty different kinds of pesticides.

I am not always successful in growing any specific kind of plant. Recently, we discovered a strange plant growing in our garden. I wasn't sure what it was, since I hadn't seen that type before. I was pretty sure it wasn't a weed. When it started to flower, we realized that it was an okra plant. Now, we didn't particularly like okra. But because we had this huge plant, we learned how to prepare and cook it. We had a wonderful gumbo that we really liked. I can assure you that we would never have purchased okra in a store, but the growing experience helped remind us of a whole new aspect to gardening. Learning again to use and prepare new foods from scratch.

Part of the security of overcoming a dependency on our material society is learning the self sufficiency of growing your own plants and food, even in small quantities. I have found that even a small window box garden can produce delightful food and add to your understanding of the natural and real world around us. By the way, take time to educate your children as to where and how we get our food. Grow a garden, get in touch with life in our real world and become more prepared to face the challenges of the future.

1 comment:

Quantumleap42 said...

I remember one time I returned to school after Christmas break and I brought some grapefruit and oranges up from Arizona to Utah. Two of my roommates were from Arizona and were delighted that I would share the citrus with them. Another one of my roommates, who was from Utah, picked up an orange and asked, "What is this?" (I have to say he wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed). After laughing a little we responded, "It's an orange!" and he said, "Oh! well yeah, did you get it?" I told him it came from a tree in my parents' yard, and then he asked, "but is it like safe?" Curious we asked, "What do you mean 'safe'?" and he responded, "Well, is it like safe to eat? Can you just eat it as it is?"

After the three of us from Arizona picked ourselves up off the floor we said, "Yes, it is very safe to eat. As a matter of fact it is probably more safe to eat that fruit from a store." As we talked to our roommate we realized that he had never eaten any kind of fruit right off a tree. The only fruit he had ever had was from a store or from a can or frozen or the like. He thought that because the fruit was never "processed" somehow it was "unsafe" or "unfit" for consumption. It was an eye opening experience for me.