Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eat Your Veggies

I've been reading a new book by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, entitled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. She and her family moved from their Arizona home to a rural farmhouse in southern Appalachia and vowed that," for one year, they'd only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it," in order to see if they could stop relying on what she calls "industrial food." The idea struck chords deep down inside me.

One of the things that would convince me to quit this nomadic life would be the lack of a vegetable garden. Sure, I tried while working in Kanab, Utah last summer. I bought all kinds of pots, filled them with good soil, and planted a variety of veggies: Sweet 100 tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, and even a few flowers, anticipating some homemade salsa and Japanese cucumber salad by season's end. The results were less than gratifying. For one thing, it was way too hot in Kanab during the summer. It was almost impossible to keep the plants well-watered and fed, especially in plastic pots.

I miss my gardens. We once lived on an acre of land in southern Oregon, down the road from a highly aromatic turkey ranch. I bought a rototiller, dug up half the yard, and planted EVERYTHING. We also raised some chickens and rabbits, with the chickens being allowed to range, as chickens like to do. We not only ate and gave away eggs with yokes that stood straight up at attention, but everything GREW like crazy! Lots of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, beans...you name it, we ate it. I canned, froze, and dried what we didn't devour fresh, and we ate like royalty the rest of the year. Once my daughters decided the "cute little bunnies" also tasted okay, they gave up naming all of them, except the pets, and we had meat from the chickens and rabbits as well. It was a good life.

We also planted gardens in Portland on a much smaller plot of land. I built some raised beds and we trucked in some expensive soil. And, those gardens produced like crazy! Before my husband and I got divorced and sold the house, we'd planted raspberries as well as a variety of dwarf fruit trees: cherries, plums, apples, pears, and apricots. And that, for the most part, was also a good life.

And then the divorce and my move back to southern California, to the land of wonderful weather and apartments packed row upon row with no place to grow anything except a pot or two of flowers outside the door. And I decided to take to the road.

This summer I worked at a shareholder-owned lodge in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. The chef loved heirloom tomatoes, so we served--and ate---lots of them. They had a flavor like no other tomato I'd ever tasted, even the ones I'd grown, the "engineered" ones. But, I don't want to spend a fortune for them, especially if they have to be trucked hundreds or thousands of miles. I want to grow my own.Last night I spent a few hours online requesting seed catalogs from various heirloom seed companies. I've been eating way too much processed food from unknown sources lately. Although I'm not sure yet how I'll grow a garden, by the time planting season comes around, I intend to have one of some kind. Just need to figure out the best way to do it.

Here are a few sources of heirloom seeds in case you're interested.

Nichols Garden Nursery
Seed Savers Exchange
Merchants and Purveyors of Heirloom Seeds
Seeds of Change

1 comment:

Yarntangler said...

During the summer of 2007, we worked at Cosmic Cavern in Berryville Arkansas. The owner there, a new gardener had fallen in love with the idea of heritage tomatoes and she planted about 16 varieties-all at the same tim
Just as they were about to be harvested she left on vacation telling us to eat all we wanted. We did. They all appeared together and we and the staff ate them like candy!
Unfortunately, none of us knew what they were as she'd forgotten to label her rows!