I love how more and more people are turning their yards into edible landscapes. I especially love to see this happening on the grounds of apartment buildings. When I lived in the JC neighborhood in Santa Rosa I had a neighbor who was a great inspiration to me – he rented a small apartment just down the street and had almost no yard space but not to be discouraged he turned the sidewalk curb strip into a miniature garden in which he grew garlic and greens and tomatoes. In his small place he was busying brewing wine and making cheese.
It’s so easy to be defeatist and assume that if you can’t grow lots of food or make lots of your own preserves that you shouldn’t bother growing or preserving anything. My neighbor taught me that the important thing is to be doing whatever you can for yourself, that growing your own food, even if it’s a few heads of garlic and some salad greens, is an act of freedom and of self sufficiency. It’s about keeping your connection strong between yourself and the soil that nourishes you. It’s a little bit like a prayer or a meditation and it’s a lot like feeding yourself the highest quality nourishment you can even on a micro-scale. Learning how to grow things and preserve food is tapping into knowledge that is at the core of the success of human beings as a species.
In a more pessimistic view it’s also what’s allowed us to overpopulate the earth and conquer nations and fight wars. Growing things allowed humans to settle down and stay put through the seasons. Agriculture allowed us to stop roaming. The evolution of food preservation is what allowed humans to cross oceans and to cross masses of land to attack other people. Without drying and salting foods armies couldn’t go far. So in a weird way, while I’m eulogizing the wonderfulness of growing and preserving foods I’m also celebrating what has made humans the most terrible virus on earth.
Still, those humans who know how to grow their own food and how to preserve it for later use have truly valuable knowledge and in times of war or natural disasters this kind of knowledge gives you better chances of survival. Plus, everyone will want to be friends with the person who knows how to make alcohol from apples and who can make sources of protein rise from the ground in plant form when there’s no meat to be had. The person who knows how to pull wild yeast from the air and mix it with flour to make bread is like a magician when there is no bread and no packaged yeast in the stores.
I am happy every time I see evidence of humans getting into the soil to grow their own food. City gardens are hopeful and resourceful. I always stop to enjoy them whenever I see them. This garden has some really big beets that are ready to pick.
It’s time for some lemony beet salad!