Gardening can be just about fun. Most often a just-for-fun garden is a flower garden, you grow it to enjoy it. However, sometimes even vegetable gardens are a bit like just-for-fun gardens. It is fun to grow things that look so interesting in a catalogue. But then what? Anyone with me? You grow this ornamental kale, lots of it, and do not know what to do with it. Well, thank God it looked good and was fun to grow.
But wait, gardening can be so much more, it can look good, be fun to grow, and taste good, too! Plus, if you put into it some thoughts it can replace your grocery shopping altogether. Wow! You want to grow what you eat? I bet you want to! Let’s get started.
Find out what you eat
Find some of your family favorite recipes and write down everything you need to make those yummy meals; make a shopping list. Wait, you say, I want to garden, not go shopping. Bear with me! Still, make your shopping list.
For example, for the Lazy Cabbage Rolls we would need
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 onion
- ⅓ or 3 cups cabbage
- ⅓ cup rice
- 1 clove garlic
- Potatoes to serve them with
- Salad as side dish
Now mark on your shopping list everything that you can grow in your area. In this example we can grow:
- Salad greens, peppers and tomatoes
Chances are your shopping/growing list does not look like this, and this is okay, we are all unique. However, maybe in order to eat what you grow you will need to review your favorite recipe list. Here is what I mean:
If your favorite family meals contain mostly foods that can’t be grown, you will not be able to grow what you eat.
In past generations recipes did not include foods that had to be shipped from overseas, or were processed, so growing what they ate was simple. Today things are different.
Chances are that because everything is available everywhere, your family learned to like foods that can’t be grown locally, or grown at all.
Some rethinking might be needed. If you can’t grow rice then don’t serve rice, if you can’t grow potatoes then don’t serve potatoes, oh, and there aren’t any seeds for donuts and chips ;).
Well, you get the idea. It sure is okay, and maybe even necessary to have some foods on the shopping list that you can’t grow. I have them too. But strive to have more and more foods that you can grow, and avoid processed foods altogether.
Grow what you eat
Now when you go to a seed catalog with your growing list, you will no longer look for what looks like fun to grow, but look for what you want to eat. If you are new to gardening, you might want to start with just a few things that are easy to grow and you often use in your meals. In our example salad greens, potatoes, and tomatoes would be a great way to start.
It does not matter what you start with, what matters is that you learn to grow the things you eat. Most plant varieties are not difficult to grow. There is lots of info on here and on the web as well as in good gardening books for each and every one of plant based foods. Besides, gardening is like riding a bike, you can’t learn how to do it by just reading about it.
Go out and do it! It is okay to fail, it is not okay not to try!
Once you have grown all those yummy foods, learn to preserve them for winter. Store things like potatoes, onions, garlic and squash in cold storage. Dry beans, hot peppers, herbs and veggies. Freeze, pickle and can your summer bounties for winter use.
Eat what you grow
It might take some time and practice to start to enjoy the abundance in the summer and use what stores well in the winter. Garden goodies do not grow and ripen according to our meal plans, they just ripen whenever the conditions are right. Learn to make meals from those garden fresh products. Many of our recipes are very simple garden to table recipes.
The book “The Four Season Farm Garden Cookbook” is packed full of tips to grow what you eat and eat what you grow. An ability you do not want to miss.
Maybe you are thinking it is such a steep learning curve, why bother? Isn’t everything available in store, washed and even ready made? Good question.
More often than not the food that we buy is grown in a way we would never approve of, sprayed with fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides, and delivered from many miles away. If it is ready made it probably is highly processed with additives that surely will make us sick.
For your homegrown food you will not have to spend money (except for the seeds to start). Growing your own food is like printing your own money! (Quote from Ron Finley). You will get fresh, organic produce for your family that is much better than money can buy.
Homegrown food is essentially free, healthier, fresher, and tastes better. We are well off if we plant a garden and eat off it. It is good for body and soul. And remember, for centuries people have done just that, lived from the garden to the table.