Have you ever tasted homegrown fresh produce?
If you have had the pleasure of growing a vegetable garden in your backyard you will, no doubt, appreciate the incredible freshness and flavours that reward you when growing and harvesting your own food. You have probably also discovered the “fresh” produce we are limited to buying at our local supermarkets just doesn’t taste the same.
If you have discovered how different these foods and flavours are, you may have taken that next step and wondered where does the mass produced food we find in the “fresh food” section actually come from? How far has it travelled and how long ago was it picked? Is it local and, if so, how local? And why doesn’t it emanate the smells and flavours that I can get from my own grown food?
One of my fondest memories as a child is helping my father build our own backyard food garden. I remember my father digging up the grass and turning the soil. I remember being impressed with my father’s ability to ‘make’ more soil, simply by digging the grass and soil over and over. I remember planting lettuce, cucumber, carrots and tomatoes – our salad staples all those years ago.
I helped Dad water the garden most days and loved watching it grow, slowly but surely. Weeks later, seeing the cucumbers start to appear, green tomatoes the size of golfballs take shape and lettuces increase in volume was incredible to observe as a child. I remember the carrots though requiring the most amount of patience. Not knowing how big they were in the ground and unable to know exactly when to harvest them was my biggest concern. My father told me that I should think of the carrots like a birthday gift – even though you don’t really know what’s down there, you will be pleased when you finally get the chance to dig them out.
I don’t remember Dad adding anything to our vegetable garden except water. No sprays, no chemicals – our garden simply grew with water, sun, and fresh air.
Our vegetable patch was very simple, yet its simplicity is what I loved the most. That, and the fact we actually grew our own food. Undoubtedly, my best memory is the time I spent with my father – just him and I, working on this project together and seeing it through to its end.
In a time where fast food, cute packaging and cartoon mascots are constantly enticing our kids to eat nutritionally flawed and deprived foods, there has never been a better time to encourage our kids They will also learn how ‘real’ food should taste.
I believe we need to offer kids every opportunity to learn and understand this growing process. Why? Because kids need to know that fruit and vegetables don’t originate in cardboard boxes and that apples don’t grow on trees all year round. Meat doesn’t originate on polystyrene trays and that much of our fruit and vegetables we find in the supermarket have travelled thousands of kilometres to reach us.
Growing your own food is one of the simplest things you can do and the benefits are many. Think of your food bill, your health and the opportunity to get outdoors and reconnect with nature. Imagine if your children were maintaining a small food plot out the back – how would you feel if they came in with a ripe and ready tomato and asked for it to be included in your dinner?
Whether you live with a suburban backyard, apartment with a balcony or even a windowsill is all the space you can afford, there is always an opportunity to plant something in a pot, garden box or straight into the ground. You may be surprised at your success rate and find another small space to grow something new. What I can guarantee is that you will never forget the flavour and freshness that abound from growing your own food.