Where real food starts

Rea; food starts here
My community garden plot about mid-season, 2010.

This site is dedicated to replacing pre-prepared food with meals created from healthy ingredients, in your home. Most of my discussion and tips start at the supermarket, because that is where a vast majority of people obtain their food.

This is not a gardening site. However, I am an avid gardener, growing much of my own food, even though I live in the inner city. I am fortunate to have a 1200 sq. ft. community garden plot, and am planning to keep a journal on this site of my garden’s progress. I’m late this year, but that documentation will start soon. It will not be part of the main site, but rather a menu option for anyone who wants to connect with that part of the real food story.

At home, I have four square-foot gardens in my tiny, 25′-wide backyard  (see the square foot method). I am really running behind this year, but I am still hoping to do a sample garden with one of my 4′ x 4′ boxes to illustrate how simple a family garden can be. There are people in apartments growing food on balconies, so the concept is not out of reach for most people. That project will be part of the garden menu.

I’m also planning to visit local farmer’s markets, and will bring those visits back here. Those articles will be part of the main site, as most people who are interested in real food do attend farmer’s markets whenever possible. The same is true of any visits I make to U-pick farms.

I’m not sure exactly what form my market reports will take, but I am never short of words when it comes to real ingredients and local food sources.

Real food garden supplied photo
Dave Hanson, Sage Garden herbs helping me carry some of the plants I bought today.

Today, I visited my favorite garden supplier, Sage Garden Herbs (Winnipeg, Manitoba). As I made my choices, I was thinking about why we bother gardening. It’s hard work, and I know we don’t save as much money as we like to think we do. Truthfully, if we concentrated on hitting all the markets in the area, we could probably break even and let someone else do the work.

Ultimately, if you remove the fact that we actually do love digging in the dirt, I think it’s about control. Controlling not only the quality of what we eat, but also what we eat. I have been gardening for over 30 years, and I have definite opinions on what is good. I like my tomatoes with attitude, the ones that make your tongue say, Wow! Most tomatoes available today, even the good ones, grown by the local market gardener are the sweeter, gentler varieties, because that is what more people seek. There is no right and wrong in these choices, but I would have a hard time finding what I like on the open market.

Tomato selection at Sage Garden Herbs photo
Tomatoes, tomatoes at Sage Garden Herbs. White, purple, red, sweet, tangy, Italian, Hawaiian (really), short, tall, big, small. And if this selection is not enough, you can choose from thousands more in seed form.

I grow a type of corn that fell out of favor thirty years ago. The new corn is much sweeter, and more tolerant of being in the fridge for a while before you cook it. My favorite is a little chewy, tastes like corn with a capital C, and practically has to be airlifted from the garden to the cooking pot, or the sugars turn to starch. What commercial grower would be dumb enough to grow what I like when there are other options?

Basil selection at Sage Garden Herbs photo
This is the basil selection at Sage Garden Herbs. Click the photo to see all, because the varieties of basil cover this entire stand -- both sides.

And herbs, wonderful, fabulous herbs. The supermarket offers a few fresh choices, half a dozen is pretty good. Farmer’s markets give us access to a few more. But when you grow your own, there is no limit. In fact, many people do not grow food, but they do grow herbs. Backyard gardening is enjoying a recent revival, but herbs have been a presence in perennial gardens all along.

Even if you are not a gardener, take a peek now and then so you can follow along the process. You may never put shovel to dirt, but you can look over our shoulders to at least pick up the cycle of gardening. There is one more bonus to add to the list of why gardeners garden. We are always very aware of the season. If you say “pea season” to a gardener, they will instantly know you mean late spring/early summer. The date will vary by geography, of course, but we know when peas grow. That helps us to know what is likely fresh and from a nearby source. Hint: There are no fresh green beans in Winnipeg in March, unless they have come from far, far, away.


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