Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gardening, Farmers Markets & the book "Animal Vegetable Miracle"

I started thinking about today's blog content several years ago, when I ate a salad with the worst tasting tomato in history. Since my mind has battled between only eating local seasonable fruits and vegetable, and eating whatever I find that somewhat looks good in the supermarket.  This entry is the first of a few that I will be posting in the near future as follow ups.

From that first pinkish, mealy, unflavorful tomato,  I have given much thought to the concept that in today's kitchens (both home and industrial) almost every type of fruit and vegetable are available for purchase and consumption no matter the taste, granted they somewhat still look like their in-season counterpart, but they just aren't the same in taste and nutrients.

I am very luck to have grown up in a small rural town where gardening and farming was born into your blood. In fact some of my best childhood memories are spending time with my grandfather in his garden, weeding, planting, talking and most importantly eating.  Right off the vine, the tree, the bush, or dug up from the ground, potatoes, chestnuts, peanuts, onions, peppers, bean, peas, zucchini, cucumbers and many many tomatoes, he loved to grow a heirloom tomato he called the "German Tomato". I also raised my own chickens and ducks during my junior & senior year of high school, the chickens I raised from chicks (Rhode Island Reds, how ironic), but the duck were given to me.  I sold both the duck and chicken eggs to friends and family and enjoyed my the experience of raising the birds, feeding them, and observing the funny ways nature works.

Last year I attended the Southside Community Land Trust 18th Annual Rare and Unusual Plant Sale at City Farm. There I bought some heirloom tomato plants, a few leek plants an heirloom strawberry plant.  I keep my purchase small because at my house I have poor rocky, sandy soil quality.  The tomato plants did so so, not because of the plant quality, but because of my soil quality.  The leeks wintered over very well and are currently growing with vigor.  But with that visit I pushed my brain closer to thinking local and in season is the way to go, and to bring back some of the gardening experience of my youth to my own home.

This year I am building an raised garden bed, unfortunately it will only be about an 8'X12' by 20" high bed, as that is all the space I have room for now, but that is a start, I will post another blog after I have built the raised bed with pictures of the process.

I am also attending this years Southside Community Land Trust 19th Annual Rare and Unusual Plant Sale at City Farm to obtain, organically grown, heirloom plants. Again I will post some pictures from the Plant Sale, and my purchases in my next blog.

To coincide with all my thoughts and plans of gardening and how to eat locally, I recently finished reading the book, that to many such as myself, served as a self help book, thank you Lesley Sears Garrity for recommending I read it.  The book I am referring to is the New York Best Times Bestseller-  "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver.  As with last years plant sale, this book has pushed me to think on how I can eat more local, not only fruits and vegetables, but free range chicken, eggs, lamb, pork and beef.  I am currently in the process of sourcing such my meat and dairy options.

If you have seen the movie Food Inc.  Kingsolver book is a good follow up read to inform you of what you can do to help make a change in the way; we as "Americans" eat, the way our chickens and beef are raised and toxicly treated, and ultimately how you can eat better, more nutritious and rewarding food.  The book takes you through the one year experiement/experience that her family took to see if they could totally live off the land, through their own gardens, local farmers market or by sourcing out local organic manufactures.  She gives a month by month account of what plants grow when, when you can harvest their tasty rewards, how the family dealt with not having store bought prepared foodstuffs in their homes and raising turkeys and chickens from peeps.

This posting is not meant to serve as a call to action as much as it is to get you to think on where you stand and what you can do to take part in this movement.  I encourage everyone to build a garden, source out their local farmers markets and help support local farms as well as eat what god intended us to eat while it is in season.  Those who live in Rhode Island here is a great resource, Farm Fresh Rhode Island

The following is a partial excerpt from Animal Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Here are 6 ways you can help your local farmers, minimizes your carbon footprint, and eat better.
  1. If items are available regionally, and are in season, get them from a farmer of ask a grocer to obtain them from a local source.
  2. Do as much as possible of your own cooking or preparation.  Make meal plans for the seasons, rather than starting with recipe and having a treasure hunt for its ingredients.
  3. For fresh fruit and vegetables, consider distance traveled.
  4. If produce or a processed item needs to be refrigerated (or frozen), energy was used to keep it cool/or frozen from its point of origin.  How can you tell, you may ask?  It is refrigerated or frozen in the store.
  5. Should you buy industrial organics?  By shifting to the organic method, corporate farmers are reducing the pesticide loads in our soil and water, in a big, big way.  This should be one of the main considerations, along with everything listed above.
Until I blog again, Eat Well, Be Safe, and Live Life.

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