The thumbs and hands of a gardener are not green, but brown from the soil encrusted on them after planting a flat of tomato seedlings.
My husband Robert grows food for our table, and when it overflows the plates, I find a way to preserve the abundance for the months when the garden lies beneath the white stuff.
I’m not sure we save money because the seeds, manure, sand, mulch, organic fertilizers all cost. The electricity to can and freeze the vegetables runs up the utility bill. The water to sterilize the equipment may not be in the best interest of conserving that precious resource.
But that doesn’t matter when the first tomato ripens on the vine and nirvana exists on our taste buds. What price can be put on the taste of freshly picked spinach lightly steamed and tossed with butter, salt and pepper? Last year I ran out of our preserved tomato sauce and used canned sauce to make marinara sauce. The tinny flavor and red water consistency did not make up for the fact I bought that can on sale for 75 cents. Give me my sauce made solely with food we grew from the fresh herbs to onions to peppers to garlic and infused into our crushed yellow and red tomatoes any day, at any cost. No price can be placed on the value of knowing where that food came from and knowing how it was made.
The U.S. Census Bureau says nearly a quarter of us grow some our own food. Some of us make an effort to get down to the local farmer’s market whenever they open for the season. But still too far many of us have no idea where our food came from and what has been done to it. I don’t have enough space or time to go into those details here, but thankfully author Barbara Kingsolver gives us the details in her 2007 book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
As our garden grows into its summer’s fullness, I’m reading Kingsolver’s nonfiction book, written with assistance from her daughter and husband. It is a memoir of gardeners and farmers and serves as a primer for agricultural history and food basics.
Our garden provides us with sustenance and satisfaction and the knowledge of filling our bodies with home grown goodness.But Animal, Vegetable, Miracle points out another good reason to eat locally as much as possible. The production of food, from the ground to our table, expends 400 gallons per person per year of oil. That’s 17 percent of our total energy use. Every step along the way to bring us the Jolly Green Giant uses petroleum in some form. If everyone committed to eating just one meal – any meal – per week that comes from locally and organically raised meats and produce, we could reduce our country’s oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels (not gallons) of oil per week, according to Kingsolver’s husband and co-contributor, Steven L. Hopp.
Now that is something to chew on and swallow.
Could you eat one meal per week consisting of food right from your backyard or neighborhood?