Garden(not farm)ing For Food Not Fashion

We all love food, and we love it for many different reasons. Food kills hunger, it gives us satisfaction, it lets us experience different flavours, it makes us feel happy or helps us deal with stress. Some people feel guilty about that but you know I think it is fine if we know what we are putting into our months and if we have some control of the quantity. So I don’t feel bad or ashamed to say it – I LOVE FOOD, and I admire cakes!  😀

I would say that I have been eating quite healthily all of my life. Of course sometimes I have no limits when it comes to sweets, but because of having some health problems and allergies I have always needed to think about what goes into my stomach. Premade food was not common in my family (we don’t call it premade food if it was done from the scratch at home and was enough for 3 days), and because of having a small garden we never bought jam or vegetables like potatoes in the store. If we cooked and served food to each other we wanted that it would look tasty and inviting.

John had a very different experience when he was a kid, but our different backgrounds made us both fans of food culture, a positive and healthy food culture. We are not professionals chefs, but we love the art of food, finding the perfect combinations of ingredients, using different spices, discovering new flavours, having homemade dishes and trying to serve them in a beautiful way. Some people say that making food at home takes lots of time, but I would say no! You can make amazing dishes in half an hour, you just need to be creative and just want to do it.

All these experiments in the kitchen can increase your healthy diet, can help you to get to know the food you eat better, can help you to appreciate the ‘healthy’ ingredients, and actually to be more concerned about the environment. It is from this perspective that I would like to share my personal opinion about gardening (not) farming (shortly gardening-for yourself farming-for others).

Gardening is definitely not a new activity, if we would take a look back and find the ‘roots’ then of course it would be Ancient times – forest gardening. Before the invention of ‘farming, this was one of the main food production systems and it was forest based. We are still following a similar idea with the modern trend of ‘foraging’, going to pick up edible mushrooms (not the ones you imagine now), picking berries, nuts, herbs and roots.

So we can’t say that gardening is a new ‘thing’, but for sure nowadays it is on a ‘wave’ – it is very fashionable. Maybe if you are of the ‘city’ generation and/or if you never had gardening experience, then it sounds so wonderful and exciting and of course in a way it is.

It’s good to be enthusiastic, but personally I would divide people into three groups – users, producers and user-producers, and then I would put myself into the first one – users. Why? Because I love the idea of organic farming, of goods directly from gardens that are full of flavours, fresh or sometimes not so fresh, but still great quality, the many different products from the harvest that can be conserved for longer use, it is just that I don’t like the main physical effort of working in the garden, I think it is hard, takes time and makes you upset if (or when) something goes wrong.

I love visiting my parents and just enjoying the produce from their garden and green-house! They don’t have a big one, they don’t use chemicals to get the best harvest, but what they harvest is usually not just for daily use, but for preservation and use during the the cold Lithuanian winter. There are different varieties of pumpkins, zucchinis, eggplants, carrots, potatoes, beetroot, apples, pears, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, paprikas, different salads, broccoli, ruccola, herbs like basil, mint, lavender and sage, berries like black/red current, blackberries, raspberries… I could go on and on with even more amazing things that come from their garden. This is not for any kind of business, it is just for themselves to have a better quality of food and then they like to share the things they grow with relatives as well.

Some of the fruits, berries, vegetables and herbs they grow are placed in the freezer for later use (pumpkins, broccoli, raspberries, dill, basil, …), some are prepared and dried (tomatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms, mint, basil, chili pepper, …), some are conserved in jars (tomatoes, cucumbers, paprika, zucchini, beetroots, berries … ) and some are just placed in the basement like potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and so on.

I love the sun dried tomatoes my Mum makes, fresh tomato juice, dried chili peppers, jams and just being able to pick up many different veggies from the freezer when outside is full of snow and make some fresh vegetable soup!

Really, it is not any kind of special case what my parents are doing, growing food at home or in a small garden somewhere is such a normal thing and we have been doing it for hundreds of years, it is just that sometimes we forget about it, we just become commercial consumers. I am not saying that we all need to have gardens and spend our evenings preserving fruits,  I just mean that we can belong to the ‘users’ group but buy local, from our neighbours, or exchange things. This is not about being fashionable but it is about having better quality of food, getting back to the roots, discovering the tastes we may already have forgotten. Of course in this way we are also doing something to help the environment, stopping such companies as Monsanto, reducing food waste, and becoming healthier.

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