There is something to be said about home grown food, fresh, ripe, not modified, not picked before it’s peak and refrigerated so it’ll make it to a store before it ripens to it’s mediocre flavor. I grew up with hippie parents, at every rental we lived in my dad was figuring out ways to put in a portable garden. The best way to put together a compost pile and the easiest way to grow the best tasting tomatoes. As I got older and learned to appreciate good veggies I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t like tomato’s and eggplant, it was that I didn’t like whatever they were selling at the store that resembled it. You have to remember this was before the days of Whole Foods and easy to get to CSA boxes. For us one of the only farmers markets around was in Oakland and once a week my parents would bring home the most exoitc – to me at the time – veggies for an evening of Asian inspired stir-frys or fresh pasta with tomatoes in colors I’d never imagine. Cabbages to pickle, radishes to add to salad, and so so many different kinds of everything.
When I moved out on my own, I dabbled in containers on my balconies, I planted a few strawberries at my condo- and tried to get them before the deer did. But it wasn’t until I moved into my own home that I really got the bug to “go big” really dig in and plant food that I was going to grow and eat, herbs that I could tend to, then dry or add to oils. Try my hand at varieties even I hadn’t heard of. One summer I took the plunge and ripped up my front lawn and put in 12 planter boxes along with mulch and a path. I planted, zucchini, and tomatoes, potatoes, garlic and onions, beets and more spices than I can name. I even planted giant pumpkins along with sugar pies just for fun. I originally thought my neighbors were going to have a fit, run me out for bringing property values down – especially living in a suburb with manicured yards and no one within a few miles growing corn. But what I ended up getting was a lot of curiosity, I would have people taking walks start to wander through the yard and look at things. People would slow down when they drove by, it was always with a bit of wonder as the looked upon my tiny plot. Some would snag a veggie now and then, some would stop and ask questions, it seemed that everyone that came in contact with me during that time was genuinely interested in what was going on. And when I sold the place last year, it was with a letter from the buyer that loved my garden and how they looked forward to planting and growing things with their family over the years.
Now that I’m back at my family home, one of the first things I told my mother was I didn’t need a lot of space on the inside, but the yard and new garden would be my domain. She gave me the look of doubt, but demurred and my new adventure has begun. I spent all winter thinking about what I wanted to do, I’ve never had so much space to work with. I thought about all the new types of plants I can grow (even thought we only lived a few miles apart, it’s almost 20 degrees warmer here), my new garden will have full sun most of the day and is protected from wind, where my last place only got the afternoon light and had to grow very heartily to stand up to winds that blew through. As January turned into February seeds were ordered and plans started forming in my head as to how I wanted things. February brought a few trips and more plants purchased, a few bare root fruits, roses and fuchsias; classes stared at the local nurseries, how to trim and tend to your plants, but as we moved into March a new era began almost immediately. I remember walking into he grocery store just before we were asked to shelter in place, and every aisle was empty, pasta, rice, beans and flour were gone alone with toilet paper and tissue. The produce section looked like department store after a Black Friday sale, and I realized we were in so much trouble on a whole.
All of a sudden having the ability to have your own fresh food readily available has become paramount. Having plants that are easy to grow, taste delicious and are easy to store is important to so many more people now. My seed supplier actually had their site crash a few weeks ago, I heard on the news that baby chicks were in short supply as people are buying them up. Even for myself, I’ve change the way I’m thinking about growing, I added a few more tomatoes plants to my variety – ones that are easy to can, I added a few more types of dried beans, and have been looking into local co-ops that I can trade with for other items I can’t easily grow. And just yesterday I listened to a podcast about the Kitchen garden becoming the Victory garden of this generation. Wouldn’t that be something? In these times of fear, it’s nice to know that people might turn to a hobby that has brought me so much joy and relaxation. But more over maybe it’ll bring back our sense of nature, and change our relationship with how and what we eat. For me it brings a sense of pride and peace to know that in some small part I am providing for my family, something that I’m good at and something that brings me joy and a peace that I don’t know in many other places.
Are you planning a Victory/Kitchen garden?