Could you eat local, seasonal food?
I think I’ve spent HOURS thinking about this week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge.
And I don’t mind admitting, the whole thing has made me feel a bit depressed.
The challenge reads “This week share ideas on eating locally during the winter months. While “eating locally” may include meats, dairy, etc., for the purposes of this challenge we’re primarily talking about plant-based foods.
And then …
Come up with a plan, for your household, to eat locally throughout the year. This might include preserving produce which is currently available in your area, talking to farmers to see if they offer (or would be willing to offer) items during the winter, or growing a winter garden of your own.”
It bought it home to me that I’ve lost yet another year of produce in the garden. Of course I could blame it on the weather (the wettest for 100 years I believe) and the fact that having clay soil means it’s been waterlogged and I’ve not been able to get out there. Plus working full time means I don’t have time, but in all honesty – it’s a bit lame isn’t it?
What if my family depended on that food? What if ‘life as we know it’ stopped tomorrow and there were no more shops and online ordering? What if there was no more fuel so even if there WERE shops you couldn’t get to them anyway?
And what about my grand plan at the beginning of 2012 that this would be the year I would harvest something every single month from the garden?
And then I panicked. Even if I knew what to do, what exactly would we eat for this challenge? The thought of eating leeks and cabbage from the garden for three months doesn’t fill me with excitement. And then I felt guilty! Because there are many people across the world who would be GRATEFUL for that, hey, even my Grandparents might have worshipped a plate of cabbage and leek at some point in their lives.
So I’m still stuck in overwhelm and sadness about the state of our cultural expectations. It’s made me realise how dependent I am on the system. Sure I can cook with wood, get hot water and have some lighting with no electricity, but it’s not very good being able to cook if I have nothing to cook! It’s made me realise how stuck in a rut of habitual shopping I am – we buy virtually the same foods every week. It’s made me realise how spoilt I am – if the shop doesn’t have what I want I complain like a petulant child! Oh my!
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I tend to be a ‘pick yourself up and focus on the solution’ kinda gal so I’m treating myself gently with this one. I’m going to give myself permission to feel bad for a couple more days then I’ll demand action of myself. Actions towards not feeling like this in a year’s time.
What can I do? Start studying a couple of websites I’ve found, dig out the two beds of weeds I currently have in the garden and maybe even sow a couple of herbs indoors, just to keep my fingers in the soil.
What about you – do you grow much of your own food and in reality how long could you feed yourself and your family for?
It’s really a sobering thought to consider how well we’d fare if we had to exist on what we could, ourselves, produce. While I feel like my yearly harvest from containers on a patio is fabulous … it’s definitely not enough to feed us for the entire year … not even close. Luckily, I do have a farmer’s market close by so I can supplement. But still … total self-sufficiency isn’t happening (yet). What I’m really bad about, though, is preserving food for the winter months … I haven’t taken advantage of what this area has to offer. So this challenge is really making me think about how I can remedy that. My mother always canned food for the winter … but she also stressed (as in stressed me out) that we had to be out of the kitchen area because bottles might explode … and that one bottle not cleaned properly or sealed properly could take down the whole family. So I grew up with visions of glass flying at the least draft into the room or the lid of the pressure cooker reeking havoc (and taking off heads) or Botulism sending us to the hospital (or morgue) … and it left me a bit afraid of the whole process. In my mind, canning was a dangerous endeavor!! But … it’s time for me to grow up and get over it. It might take me the next year to actually develop my spine but … that’s my goal for next summer!
The problem with producing our own food is how labour intensive and time consuming it is, particularly after a full day’s work. This year, we considered converting half our garden into a vegetable plot but decided against it because it would be more work than we could cope with. What we have grown is quite impressive, but no where near enough for us to be self sufficient. However, it has still been quite a lot of work. Preserving produce for the winter is also quite a lot of work. So far, I have produced 8 jars of tomato chutney and my husband has frozen several batches of runner beans. I still have a lot more produce to freeze, chillis to dry, and more chutney to make. I had planned to make some red pepper chutney today, but, with everything else I had to do, it just hasn’t happened – although I am determined that it will happen another day! I haven’t started on the apples yet, but remember how much work it was last year peeling, cooking and freezing lots of apples. It also took a long time picking blackberries from hedgerows. I think that if we were really going to grow all our food, it would not be feasible – or necessary – to go out to work full time as well.
One thing we have been doing recently is to eat potatoes grown in this country rather than imported rice. Recently, most of the potatoes have come from our own garden, but we have also bought some potatoes. I had thought that potatoes would not be very good with some of the things it is customary to eat rice with. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find they are delicious.
Whoa. Mrs. Green. Breathe. If we all fed ourselves from our back yards we would be back to the subsistence life, with all the risks that would entail. My entire family would die. Never mind the erratic weather, I’m no good as a gardener: it’s that simple.
It makes more sense for me personally to read the labels saying where a veg comes from, and for those of us who live in places where the country of origin is not a required label, learn about what winter crops are harvested in our area, and buy those.
There are actually a surprisingly large number of recipes from all cultures that feature cabbage – for a good reason! It’s one of those cold-weather crops, that you can store in the root cellar / fridge for a long time. But yes, if I did just potatoes and cabbage there would be a REVOLUTION in my house!
There are battles we win and some we lose but there is no reason to beat yourself up about it. If you are anything like me then you have a million and one things to do and it’s inevitable that some things slip by the wayside. What is important is deciding whether or not you genuinely feel that you have enough time to grow your own or whether you are happy buying your food from local shops and markets?
We shouldn’t get too extreme with our goals, they have to be manageable otherwise we are destined to fail (I’m talking individual goals rather than society’s goals here). Sure we might wish to live a completely self sustaining life, grow our own food, make our own clothes and wash everything by hand but we shouldn’t equate modern life and modern comforts with climate change simply because they are both modern occurrences – it’s not a cause and effect situation. The “system” as you describe it is not an evil machine per se, you are allowed to enjoy the benefits it brings and as you have shown time and time again, it’s about making the most out of the things you do have regardless of their origin.
You need a veg buddy! Someone who absolutely loves growing veg and has the time.
With three children under 8 and currently living in a rented house, I just can’t invest the time or effort into a good sized veg patch in our garden. So my veg buddy for the moment is my sister-in-law. She loves to grow veg and I buy from her. This helps cover her costs and helps out when she has a glut of any particular veg or fruit.
And hopefully when the kids are a bit older, I will grow more and will have my own veg buddy!
Wow I think you are doing great. It is hard to maintain a garden and work full time. We have clay soil also and it can be a real challenge.
We have been eating our own, simple, traditional, homegrown food – no cloches! no greenhouse! for years. All winter long. What’s wrong with having cabbage one day, leeks the next, then maybe kale, or roots (beet, swede, celeriac, parsnips)? Brussels’ sprouts are always welcome, as are carrots, pumpkins, some spinach every so often ….
And all these vegetables can be prepared in many ways. You can even have salad every day. Not limp green leaves, but grated (raw!) beetroot and apple, or a coleslaw. Corn salad is lovely.
We enjoy our food, and are always disappointed when we have to eat out. My monthly blog gives not only what’s local and seasonal, but simple recipes and a bit of my own, pig-headed? nutritional advise.