EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: This Summer’s Garden Plot

I’ve been thinking about food again. This is a frequent thing I do, think about what to cook, what to grow, what to try. What sorts of foods will bring solace on a busy day? What will welcome friends to my home? There are foods that I can eat only when my children are not here for dinner (that means legumes, especially peanuts) and foods I can only cook when Mick is away (that means non-shell fish). No red meat for my daughter-in-law. No dairy for my daughter’s boyfriend.
And there are those other considerations that I’ve really been contemplating of late: local food versus stuff from far away, vegetables and fruits that don’t grow here at this time of year, hormones and high-fructose corn syrup and pesticides and big agriculture. I started reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver this week, which was actually published a few years back but I didn’t get around to it till now. I also bought a copy of the Edible Balcony: Growing Fresh Produce in Small Spaces by Alex Mitchell and began my balcony (well, deck, actually – pretty much the same thing) garden with lettuce, two kinds of peppers, strawberries and one purple basil plant. The lettuce is already feeding us. The basil is struggling, not sure why, but I’m blaming the squirrel that dug it up when it was just getting going. I put it back, but it wasn’t happy. No matter…I have another basil plant in my raised garden and that one is thriving.
The reading is pushing me to think harder about where the foods I’m used to having around really come from. Today, for example, friends are coming over for dinner. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen, which inspires things like blog articles and short stories, and I kept wondering, okay, where did these lemons I’m using come from? How long were these cucumbers on the truck before they landed in the Cub Foods produce section? How far away did the chickens live whose breasts are now in my crockpot atop a mixture of onions, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, chicken broth, and vegetable oil? And what is it that stops me from making my own chicken broth once in a while? Oh, and eggs, I really should get those at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. 
It’s easy to think about these kinds of things when summer is at its start and we haven’t tired of working in the garden just yet. Here in the Twin Cities, we are lucky to have a lot of access to farmers markets and CSA memberships, lucky to have a growing season that allows us to uphold a Minnesota tradition for home-grown tomatoes among other things. Many municipalities allow the keeping of chickens and bees. There is strong support for organic food. All of these things are important not just for our diets, but for the health of the larger community, and that’s something I know I don’t think about often enough.
But there’s been a shift in how Mick and I are taking care of ourselves that perhaps I can connect to the ripple effect of individual choices within our community. We’ve recently changed our habits around exercise and diet simply because we needed to. We needed to be healthier so our bodies would last longer. Our energy was lagging. So, that meant a gym membership and a pact to quit making stupid food choices (goodbye French fries and sour gummy worms and chips with dip) so that we would feel better. 
And we do indeed feel better after only a month. We have the whole summer to solidify some healthier habits and learn to cook with a little more attention to what’s actually in season versus what’s on sale at Cub Food or Byerly’s or wherever. 
This is one growing season where growth will occur well beyond the borders of the garden. Just not on my belly, thank you very much.


Jalapeno pepper


  1. I 'd like to know how you deal with slugs. And vine weavils? Maybe you don't get those because it's a drier climate. I can never get lettuces going because the birds destroy them or slugs and snails. 😦


  2. Interesting that you should mention squirrels. They have been foraging in my pots also.

    I'm with you in paying more attention to what I eat. Now if only I could get my husband to eat salads and more veggies. He is such a red meat man.


  3. My husband and I had a CSA farmer one year, but it was a 20-mn. drive to get to him. Now we go to our local farmer's market which will soon be glorious.


  4. The lettuce is in a container on the deck, so that probably helps. We don't get a lot of slugs in our garden and no big snails like you have there. But there's an old method of putting out a saucer of beer; the slugs go in and drown. We've done that when we had a few slugs eating our hostas a few years ago. You do, however, end up with a saucer of dead slugs. Yuck.


  5. I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (and all of her work) and gave a copy to several friends. And I have made some smalls steps to reducing food miles. A work in progress.
    In addition to the ethical considerations locally (seasonally) grown food tastes soooo much better.


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