Monday, July 26, 2010
Two months since the beginning of gardening season in Peace country and harvesting has begun in earnest. Weeks ago I harvested spinach and have been continuously harvesting lettuce and peas, the latter of which never made it to the house because they're just too darn tasty coming out of the garden. Now some of my beets have been picked as well as some carrots and some potatoes. Not only have I learned that for me, gardening is one of the most wonderful pastimes I could have taken up. But I've also learned more about our industrial food system than I could have hoped to from the legion of books I've read on this topic to date. Ever notice a few differences between fresh garden produce and store bought produce? The first, most obvious difference, is that garden fresh produce tastes infinitely better. The more subtle difference is qualitative. When I went to harvest my beets I was expecting to find the swollen, monstrous tubers of grocery store fame. When I saw these 1.5 inch shrimps I thought to myself, "They're not ready." But then I read in my gardening books that beets are to be harvested between 1.5-3 inches in diameter and are at their best flavor at 1.5 inches. Where along the line of modern food production did we lose this knowledge and decide that all of our vegetables needed to be monstrous to be worthy of purchase? And what of their look? Have you looked at store-bought carrots? They all look the same and, yes, they look beautiful. Garden carrots look dwarfish and ugly. But goodness do they taste better. You know, cucumbers used to grow curled and crooked until we humans stepped in and bred them to grow straight so they'd be easier to fit in a box for shipping. That for me is the saddest thing I've read in a long time. I hate cucumbers. I really do. Or at least that's what I said until I tried some garden grown ones by a local gardener. They're phenomenal. I wonder if the declining consumption of fruits and vegetables in North America is a result of our attempt to "standardize" them. What a shame more people don't garden. If only they knew what they were missing.