The message is out there, but are we listening? When you hear the term “buy local” in reference to your food, how local are you thinking? Would you say local is your country? Maybe it is your state or province, or even your town. All better options than buying something shipped in from afar, something sprayed in wax, grown with preservatives, and hauled in from overseas or across borders. In most places in the world, there are limited local options, but in others, where we have seasonal weather and a variety of soil conditions, we can think about growing much much closer to home. As in at home, as in “our own backyard” or a small planter on our balcony or patio. Today’s sweet post is about the sweet treats and sweet pleasures of growing your own.
I love vegetables, I always have, and if it was up to me, I would be happy to eat salads and baked squash and grilled zucchini and eggplant all day long. For various reasons, that is a dangerous proposition for me, but my love of vegetables, the fresher the better is a reality. Where did it start? Well, I honestly think this one goes back to my childhood and a lovely cottage in Muskoka, Ontario. I was a very lucky kid to grow up with a place to go to every weekend and all summer long, there were very few rules, lots of things to do, and we had a huge property, even by today’s standards.
While we spent winters buzzing about on our snowmobiles, building giant snow forts and sculptures, and ice skating on that frozen solid lake, summers were another story entirely. Very early on, my parents squared off two very large garden plots, perhaps 12’x12′ each. Maybe larger, it is hard to remember. My mother planted and tended to cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins, sugar snap peas, and other wonderful vegetables. As kids, we would think we were very sneaky indeed, yanking small sweet carrots from the garden, running for the lake and washing them off, and eating them as we sat on the dock, dangling our feet in the water. If you have never had a carrot fresh from the garden, you are missing out on nature’s candy.
My mother would carefully collect all those small cucumbers and heaps of green tomatoes, and she would pickle them in huge batches. We would have garlicky dill pickles and green tomatoes, bread and butter pickles in jars by the dozen all set out in the ‘cellar’, a small room in the basement. My mother actually had to find ways to use the tomatoes, there were just too many for one family. Everyone got gifted, and she even tried some very odd culinary experiments. I remember a Green Tomato Pie, sweet, not savory, that she assured us tasted just like apple pie. In retrospect, it is more likely true than not, since Tomatoes are actually a fruit.
At the end of the season, we would decorate the exterior of the house with the pumpkins and squash we had grown. My mother had a great sense of humor, and always kept aside any vegetables that looked ‘odd’, often resembling faces or other body parts. I remember a huge carrot that looked like a woman’s legs crossed at the knees, it sat on the ledge above the kitchen sink.
If you have access to a backyard, hopefully you have a compost container out there, if you do, you are likely brewing up some of the best natural fertilizer than can be had. If you have a small patch of land, even just a few square feet, you can create a little patch of heaven in your own backyard. Some neighborhoods offer community gardens, places where you can sign up for a plot of land, often at no cost, to grow some fresh food for your family.
My point is, there is no reason to buy heaps of ‘long distance’ semi-fresh foods when you can grown at least a few of them in your own backyard. Have a picky eater in your house, a child that claims to ‘hate’ vegetables? School programs that have children participating in a vegetable garden project often find that kids are far more likely to try foods they have grown themselves. The faster you can get a food from garden to table, the higher it is in nutrients, and the better the flavor. Refrigeration is death to the flavor of the tomato, mushrooms that are washed are tragically ruined, and carrots are meant to be heavy and juicy, not dry looking and frail.
So let’s see, you can save money, grow without pesticides and herbicides, you can have vegetables and herbs literally at your fingertips, your kids are more likely to eat the veggies you grow yourselves, and you can reduce the carbon footprint caused by the long-distance shipping of perishable goods. WIN – WIN! Not only that, but you can grow the things you like best, the varieties you treasure, and you can go organic in the true sense of the term. There are a handful of Etsy sellers that have the most magical and lovely Organic Seeds for stunning varieties of veggies available for purchase, and now is the time to start thinking about your spring garden.
First things first, know your zone. Find out what will grow in your area of the country, and what is less likely to thrive. Second, plan your garden size, and where you will put it, then watch to determine the sun exposure vs. shade in the average day. Find a local garden supply store that supports home gardeners. Plan for the supplies and tools you will need for your garden. Don’t think you have to buy everything, up-cycle is the key to making this a great project. Use an old cake sever as a trowel, if you need to grow some seedlings before directly planting in the garden, find a series of small cups or glasses that can be used, or even use a cardboard egg crate as a perfect seed starter. Reclaimed boards or wood scraps can make great stakes for your plants or can make the perfect box frame for your garden, helping keep weeds out without chemicals.
After you determine how much space you have and what you are planning to grow, get the best seeds you can find. Order yourself some of these non-biologically engineered hearty organic seeds, all found on Etsy. These pictures are positively mouth watering, and I just can’t wait for spring so I can set up a planter and grow some carrots on my balcony. I am not good with flowers, but something tells me a few chives and carrots will look great in a long trough planter on my balcony.
Some of these seed types are rare heirloom seeds, and they are only available in small amounts, but they will give you an idea of what is out there. It is truly remarkable to see the sheer range of colours and shapes in a single vegetable family, and each colour had it’s own unique nutritional benefits. Some seeds cannot be shipped by mail across certain borders, so make sure you can get the product you want shipped to you before you make the purchase. The friendly vendors at Etsy are almost universally thrilled to answer any questions you may have, and when it comes to those who sell seeds, they have often grown the varieties they sell personally, so they are the best people to ask. Bet you can’t get that at the local Walmart.
Even if it is just something you jot down on your ‘something to do someday‘ list, having a look at these pictures will help to inspire you to try your hand at home gardening. If you are a seasoned gardener, or ready to give it a good shot, then it won’t be long before spring arrives and you will have a chance to tastes these sweet treats from your garden, and savor the flavor that can only come with knowing you grew something with a little elbow grease, a lot of love, a the sun, soil, and seeds that are the recipe for fabulous garden fun.
Note: All images in this post and products mentioned are copyright/intellectual property of the respective Etsy vendor indicated under the image. Please contact vendors for more information about specific products and prices. No infringement is intended.