by Guest Ranter Marion Owen of Acorns
I live in Alaska, on Kodiak Island. And local greens are hard to come by in the dead of winter. I know, I know. I should eat ’em, but after growing my own during the summer, I have a tough time buying "grocery greens." I’ve learned the hard way and maybe you can relate. Fresh-picked greens from the garden will keep a couple weeks in the fridge. Try storing a head of store-bought lettuce for the same period and you end up with a disgusting, olive green, mush.
After punching my way through the snow, I found them: Green tufts of kale. Withered, they looked more like old trees than something to eat. Still, I clipped a dozen tops and stuffed them in a plastic bag. With my back to the wind, I retraced my steps to the house…
Every gardener knows that a vine-ripened tomato tastes much better than a tomato that traveled 2,000 miles in a truck. But at some point we end up at the store to buy tomatoes. Now it gets complicated: Should you buy organic or locally-grown produce? And what about out-of-season stuff, like asparagus
The question isn’t so much how it’s grown, as where it comes from. The organic tomato,
even though it’s untainted by chemicals, may have traveled 2,000 miles, burning fossil fuel, to get there. The tomato from the local farmer, well, that’s just a hop and a skip. Bottom line: In the face of global warming (hello, you must see Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth") experts say buying local makes better sense. What’s more, local producers get a fairer price, since there’s no profit-shaving middleman involved.
So, if buying local is good, is there more we can do? Yes. That’s for everyone, regardless of income or housing situation, to grow at least some of their food. Sound old fashioned and foolish? Good God people, our grandparents put us to shame with their Victory Gardens! We need clean air, clean water and healthy food more than we need a new cellphone or an Olivia fountain ($1,299) from Smith &
Okay, rants aside… Maybe the idea of growing even some of your own food might seem overwhelming. It’s not. Start with say, four basic vegetables–based on ease of growing, longer storage life and superior nutrition.
For cool climates: Potatoes, onions, kale, and carrots. For warm climates: tomatoes, beans, leafy greens and squash. (Fresh tomatoes may not store well, but they do when dried or canned.) No room for a garden? No excuse. Join a CSA, rent a community garden plot or try containers. (Great book: "The Bountiful Container," by McGee and Stuckey.)
Do we need an in-your-picket incentive for growing veggies? "Yo, Uncle Sam! We’d like for seeds,
tools and other home gardening supplies to be tax-deductible." Amy thinks
food seeds and plants are sold tax-free in some states. Nice start, but why not reach for the stars? I’m drafting a petition to send to Congress. So, ranters, here’s your chance: What gardening
supplies should we be able to write off and why?
Back in the kitchen, I shook the crinkly leaves into a tub of cold water. A few hours later, I checked one of the leaves, rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger. Like magic, the freeze-dried leaves had swelled up with water. Victory! I’d cheated the produce aisle one more time. Hmmm, now if I could just get the other half of my carrots out of the ground. The BOTTOM halves of the carrots.
Read a sample of Marion Owen’s "UpBeet Gardener" newsletter, posted online here. The free monthly ezine, with subscribers in 70 countries, is for people who want simple, effective answers for gardening, relationships and life. And listen to Marion’s 3-minute podcasts on
her Acorns blog.