A New Food History (the Garden Food Movement!)

20170917_154719Why is it so hard to eat healthy?  I often have wondered this.  I believe it is because as Americans we do not have our own food culture.  If we were from India we would crave curries and lentils and coconut.  If we were Japanese we would crave the tastes of sea weed and fresh vegetables.  We would crave the tastes of our genetic history, of fresh, local produce.  For someone like me, whose family has been in this country for over four hundred years (seriously, according to Ancestry.com no one in my family has come over since the 1700’s!) I have McDonalds and meatloaf to hold dear.  Monsanto lives here.  If it doesn’t have artificial flavors then it isn’t savory or sustaining enough.  It is just bland.  We crave the tastes of our youth!  American tacos, and steak, and canned vegetables!  Just kidding, I never crave canned vegetables.  But I can tell you that the folks that frequent the farmers markets have no clue what vegetables are local.

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Sure, we have regional specialties; fried chicken in the south, and clam chowder in the east, and we have adopted the cuisines of every other nation.  But we haven’t a clue about our own food history because a lot of times folks were just starving.  People of the world just started eating every animal in sight.  We have a genetic disposition for fear of starving or not having enough.

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People that come to America are always surprised at what our serving sizes look like.  One meal at a restaurant could feed a whole family!

That is why it is hard to eat healthy.  We don’t know what that looks like.

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We don’t have our own food history.  We have let big companies take over our food system.  But can we rewire our brains to crave certain foods?  Is it too late to simplify our palates?  I wonder.

It seems to me that a plate full of whole grains; farro, buckwheat, rice, barley, rye, topped with in-season vegetables of varying colors, and topped with a savory sauce of some sort; tomato based or smoked cashew or asian or red chile, would be amazing at every meal.  Inevitably we start craving restaurant food.  It is never as good as what we make at home yet there must be artificial ingredients and flavorings that our bodies crave.  Like it’s the taste of home, or something.

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The gardening season is coming up and I intend to retrain our taste buds!  We are now on a rather strict budget (time to practice what I preach) and we will not be gallivanting around restaurants anymore.  Eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, seeds, legumes, and nuts help us to avoid the more expensive, processed, nutritionally deplete foods and save A LOT on the grocery bill.  Pastas (homemade or not), homemade sourdough, whole grains, fresh, sauteed, or roasted vegetables from the gardens or market, fresh fruits, roasted nuts as toppings for meals, or made into sauces, or eaten as snacks, seeds added to delicious, crisp salads, and beans and other legumes seasoned and added to meals.  We will create our own food history.  The Garden Food Movement!  Not a diet, but a lifestyle.  The new food history of America.  One household at a time…

All of the above dishes are plant based.  It’s time we take back our health and our food.

The Romance and History of Seed Saving (now how the heck do I do it?)

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I have been listening to lectures and reading about seed saving.  It is something I have wanted to do, but then at the end of the season I either get lazy, run out of time, or run out of plants to save!  This idea appeals to me though and makes so much sense.

There are the practical reasons, of course.  When you patent something, you own it.  When you patent a seed, you own life.  Dow, Dupont, and Monsanto would very much like to own life.  These are mega corporations that seem to have no soul.  They are made up of people with well lined green pockets and their friends in politics benefit too.  Dow and Dupont create the most powerful pesticides and herbicides on the market made from leftovers of chemical warfare, slowly killing populations of species including people.  These require plants that can stand up to them.  Monsanto, with their genetically engineered seeds, are patenting all types of seeds.  They are open pollinated so if it drifts into your garden, they own your seeds too.  If one was to stop and think about it, it is all very terrifying that a large entity could own our life force, our food, and not just any food, poisonous food.  They are already poisoning millions of Americans every day with their GMO’s that are in practically every processed food and in more and more produce.

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I am blessed to live in an area that is not known for farming (lucky me, there is a reason for that!) but the benefit of that is that I have no drift from GMO crops.  I should be saving my seeds!  I would also save $600 a year on seeds that I starry eyed buy in January.

I am also struck by the romance and the history of saving seeds.  Our grandparents that came over from other countries with seeds in the lining of their jackets.  Our Native American ancestors saved seed to take from place to place.  There were no glossy seed catalogues for them to order from each year.  Seeds were a source of trade.  Seeds were gold.  Over 94% of all seeds are gone.  Forever.  We will never know many of the delicious foods that our ancestors ate.  Even from the 1940’s.

Maryjane's first radish.

We have selected hybrid seeds to choose from.  This is a great reason to choose a seed company like Seed Savers.  They have successfully saved hundreds of seeds from extinction.  To plant a seed that was brought over by covered wagon or a seed from corn that was used as cornmeal are all gifts from a past time.  Then save the seed.

A beautiful story I read in a magazine years ago has followed me in memory.  After the Vietnam war there were several refugees.  I believe this happened in Louisiana.  The Catholic ministries bought two apartment buildings to house these refugees.  These folks were missing their homeland and their families.  With them when they fled their war torn country were seeds.  The people started a garden at their new place and planted the seeds from their homes.  They created an oasis of foods of comfort that are not grown here.  Vegetables their mothers grew, recognizable and tactile pieces of home.

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I know how to save seeds from squashes and tomatoes, that type of plant.  I just need to do it.  I do not have a clue how to save things like collard greens or lettuce or radishes.  I left  some of them up and their flowers are beautiful waving daintily over the other plants.  Now what?  Will the seeds come after the flower?  Do I need to chop their heads off now?  Oh bother, I need a book and a teacher!

This year I will at least save seeds from pumpkins, from squash, from potatoes.  Start slow and work my way up to a collection.  Create my own chest of gold.