Fresh garden greens for dinner tonight: spinach, broccoli leaves, lettuce, carrot tops, chard, kale--in my mom's old aluminum colander. I'll blanch these (3 minutes), cool, and refrigerate. This evening, I'll chop and saute in olive oil with garlic, green onions, and pecans from Bill's trees, with a little balsamic vinegar. If I wanted to freeze the greens instead of serving, I'd pop them into a plastic bag and freeze. A winner both ways, tonight or next November. But the real payoff for me? Everything but the oil and vinegar comes from right here at Meadow Knoll.
Somebody remarked to me recently that it's so much easier and quicker just to buy fresh produce that it really doesn't pay to grow our own. Implicit in her comment was something like, "Haven't you got anything better to do with your time? Go write another book, for heaven's sake!"
Sorry, but I don't agree. Gardening, to my mind, helps me achieve two goals. First is the food itself, naturally. But the second goal is just as important--to men, anyway. Whenever I'm feeding us from the garden, I'm not feeding industrial agriculture, which feeds on oil (petroleum-based fertilizers, diesel-fueled tractors and truck transportation to market). To the extent that Bill and I can eat our own home-grown Irish and sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, greens, melons, and more, we have declared at least a measure of independence from the unsustainable global food system.
That's why that batch of greens represents more to me than just the nutritious, tasty food that it is. I still have to depend on industrial agriculture for far too much--we all do. But I'm learning every day to become more self-reliant, and finding more and better ways to practice gardening as a radical act. And if I can encourage you to your own radical act of growing something you can eat, all the better.
Reading note. The opposite of work is play, also an active verb. It could be tennis or birdwatching, so long as it's meditative and makes you feel better afterward. Growing sunflowers and beans is like that, for some of us. Cooking is like that. So is canning tomatoes, and making mozzarella. Doing that with my kids feels like family life in every happy sense. When people see the size of our garden or the stocks in our pantry and shake their heads, saying "What a lot of work," I know what they're really saying. This is the polite construction in our language for "What a dope." They can think so. But they're wrong.--Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle