It’s amazing how something like gardening can change your entire perspective on food. It causes you to look at the produce in the store differently, you cook differently, your whole mentality changes.
Before I started gardening, and before we had the farm, I never thought about what was in season when I would shop. I would buy the produce that was the biggest and least blemished without thinking about it. I ate pretty much the same way all year round. All this changed when I started gardening.
I think the thing that hit me first, the first perspective change, was the fact that everything you find in the store is perfect. It’s rare that you find blemishes on the produce, but this is not real. This brings about the subject of waste… which is a whole other story, but I did find this great article that goes into it (here). The percentage of veggies that come out of our organic garden without any blemishes (however big or small), that are the perfect size and color is not incredibly high. They may not be shaped perfectly, they might have holes from bugs, or cracks from shifts in watering. In the last few years I have grown to love the blemishes. They make it feel real to me.
Next perspective shift was eating foods out of season. There is nothing like a tomato fresh out of the garden… nothing. No grocery store tomato can match it, especially those out of season. Many grocery store tomatoes, even in season, were picked when the weren’t yet ripe and then blasted with ethylene gas to turn their green skin red. This is done so they have time to travel, and sit in the store for a little while without rotting. The skin may be red, but they still taste like an unripe tomato. Once you start to understand the gardening seasons you start to question where these produce items at the grocery store have to come from. I don’t like my food traveling from great distances. It seems wasteful.
I went into gardening thinking my eating habits would mostly stay the same. I would still eat whatever I wanted all year round and the meals I would make would not change. This is how I have always done it… why change now? I would grow as much as I could within gardening season, preserve what I could, and purchase what I needed the rest of the year from the grocery store, but this didn’t end up happening. Like I stated before, I didn’t like the idea that the produce was having to travel a large distance, and the stuff at the store didn’t taste nearly as good. I began to eat veggie heavy meals through the summer and fall and the things that made it to our table during the winter were things like root vegetables and starchy foods. As a family we started to eat seasonally.
Gardening has made me branch out and try vegetables that I would have never considered before because they are easy to grow, grow in abundance, are easy to preserve, and can give us the nutrients we need. It allows us to have variety in our diet and keeps us from getting bored. It’s a lot of fun growing a new vegetable then trying to figure out how to use them!
Finally, it changed the way we constructed dinner. For so many years we started meal planning by figuring out what protein we wanted, then filling in a starch, and lastly a vegetable. When you only spend $3 on a pack of seeds, and you have the kind of space we have, you start to think about what you have available to in your own backyard as the start of your meal. You don’t look for recipes that you like, you look for recipes that fit the items you have growing.
I love gardening. I love putting my hands in the dirt. I love having this kind of control over the foods that my family eats. I love walking into my backyard to gather healthy tasty foods. It’s freeing. It has changed me. The food world looks quite different now.