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19 March 2013

The value of knowing your food

Every year, I plant something. Be it herbs or flowers or veggies, each spring I find myself drawn to the soil to grow something from simple little seeds. This year I get to grow a REAL garden because I actually have a real yard. I've planned a veggie and herb garden with a few edible flowers thrown in for variety, and I've already started my seedlings.

I love growing something from just a seed. The anticipation over those first few leafy green appearances is almost too much to handle. When the slender green leaves begin to poke through the rich soil, I feel like a giddy school girl. I spend countless minutes adjusting them in the sunlight and bringing them in from the cold at night. I gently prune each plant until only one strong seedling remains in each square of soil, hoping that it will continue to flourish and grow. My little seedlings aren't big enough to transplant into the ground yet, and it is still too cold at night for their tender roots and leaves. But, once they are established in their permanent spots, then the waiting for fruit begins. Enjoying my fresh food and herbs later in the summer is often the most rewarding feeling I get all summer.

There is a special importance to growing something from scratch. Sure, you can go buy seedlings at any home improvement store, but waiting for a tiny seed below the dark soil to emerge and grow into a mature plant is truly magically. Even after all these years of growing things, I am still amazed that such tiny specks of matter can eventually become the long winding vines of a bean plant or a vibrant aubergine eggplant. Those seeds are so tiny and yield such amazing fruit! Tending a garden takes time and energy and patience, the latter of which I often seriously lack. My garden helps me to slow down and take time to appreciate the bounty of blessings that surround me.

There's a pride I feel when I bite into a tomato that I have grown from just a seed or gaze upon a morning glory that I have coaxed up a trellis. I've never felt this after shopping in a grocery store, no matter how fresh the tomatoes may be. There's this feeling of "I made this" even though the magic of its creation is far beyond my mortal hands. Seeing the green of my garden provides a satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that my rushed life rarely produces. 

I think that our culture is too far removed from the food we consume. I'm not absolutely positive, but I would guess that 98% of the food consumed in America is purchased in grocery stores and farmers' markets and other places. We don't raise our own meat to be butchered and we rarely grow our own fruits and vegetables. This is a vital step in our nutrition that we are missing, and we miss out because of it. Growing/raising your own food gives you a confidence in the quality and value of that food. I know that when I make a salad later this summer with my very own home-grown spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots, those vegetables will be clean of dirt and chemicals. I will know exactly where they came from and what they went through to get to my table. I won't worry about cross-contamination with E Coli or fecal matter or any of those other horrible health/food scares. I will eat my dinner in confidence. More confidence than I have with the food that I purchase at Harris Teeter. 
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