Garden Fresh Food

Susan Moore

Illustration by Jeannie Phan, 2015.
[This article ran in the April/May 2016 issue of The SCOOP.]

Spring is new growth and the smell of fresh earth. Why not commemorate spring by creating your own vegetable garden? You get to be out in the fresh air and sunshine, full of anticipation for your own food. All you need is a few square feet of the great outdoors, a water source (try a rain barrel), and a little time. Your grandparents did it, and so can you.

Consider your health. Vegetables sold in Canadian supermarkets today contain far fewer nutrients than they did 50 years ago. The family’s diet from a garden is more diverse and packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The food you grow in your own yard is definitely the tastiest and the healthiest. Best of all, you can grow it free of chemical pesticides.
Consider the outdoor classroom. Backyard gardens teach children about the origin of food and the connection to their dinner plate. Kids can help plant, water, weed, and harvest – a great opportunity to play in the dirt and get the chores done. Also, the little gardeners are more apt to eat the fruits of their labour than vegetables that show up in a grocery bag. Think about it. When you toss a homegrown salad or serve up a stir-fried medley of vegetables, you gain a real appreciation of the path from your backyard to your plate.
Consider the choices of different plant varieties. A tomato grower who supplies a large market needs to grow varieties that ripen all at once and are tough enough to survive shipping, whereas a home gardener can select tomatoes for flavour, colour, and harvest time. The older varieties are far more nutritious than commercial types. Ripening tomatoes on the vine is a lot more appealing than the commercial practice of gassing them to redness.

When looking for garden plants and seeds, support your neighbourhood organizations. Many local garden clubs host sales in May or early June. You can take advantage of locally grown plants and seed lovingly saved by hand, and the prices are reasonable.
If you absolutely can’t have a garden, rent a plot in a community garden or invest in someone else’s, called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). You pay a market gardener a one-time fee (per share) before the start of the growing season and, in return, you receive weekly food boxes. Everyone wins. Local family farms don’t have to take out expensive bank loans to provide you with fresh, nutritious produce. Waste is reduced because market gardeners can grow the amount needed for their customers, a known quantity.

Most CSAs grow organic food and provide a diversity of vegetables and herbs in season. Some also offer berries, eggs, or meat, either with the CSA share or purchased separately. For more information and a list of local suppliers, visit the Ontario CSA Farm Directory at csafarms.ca.

This spring: get dirty, get healthy, and get supporting local food.

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