One promising spring, I ended up with a copy of Jaime Oliver’s Jaime at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life and his chat in chapter one convinced me to give gardening a second try to eat local. Jaime writes, “I’d always made an effort to buy local, seasonal and really fresh produce but for some reason never thought I could do it myself. It just never occurred to me that it might be as easy as taking some seeds out of a packet and popping them into the ground. But it is!” And while my previous year’s failures should have argued with that statement of ease, his belief and his book guided me through a successful gardening season that’s now continued for years.
While everything in year two wasn’t a success, the tomatoes were, and my family still speaks of that season’s bruschetta, the most beautiful and delicious they’d ever had. There were herbs, green beans, cauliflower and fresh kale. All of it tasted better when pulled from the ground and brought to the table. We were connected and attuned to the needs of the living things in our backyard and at the same time no longer satisfied to eat the berries and tomatoes in winter from the supermarket. Something had shifted in us for good.
Not everyone can turn a backyard or garage rooftop into a garden, but you can connect to the growers in your area and be part of sustainable practices and changes that benefit your health, your neighbors, the environment and the animals all around you. Here are three ways you can embrace this year’s growing season and connect with your food and farmers near you.
Plant a recipe.
Want to give gardening a try? Start with planting the pieces you need for a summer salad. Growing a variety of lettuces is simple and easy to maintain which makes it a perfect vegetable for a beginner. Stagger your plantings, and you’ll have greens throughout the growing season. If you are ready to take on more, plant the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, beets and herbs with hopes for your favorite salad combination. Even if you can manage a few pots of herbs on your apartment windowsill, adding them to your salad, dressings or beverages will benefit your body, mindset and the air you breathe.
Join a CSA.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a common way for individuals to buy shares of locally and seasonally grown produce directly from farmers in your area. As a buyer, you can learn about and align with your farm’s practices and share in the risk and the bounty of what the season brings. Andrea Bemis, the owner of Tumbleweed Farm and author of the blog and book Dishing up the Dirt, says, “This is what makes Taylor and me so happy to do what we do. When the youngest members of our CSA family act as if it’s Christmas morning opening a box of veggies, we know we need to keep doing what we do.”
For an extensive resource on how to use what comes in your CSA box, check out Andrea’s recipe index organized by vegetables including Kohlrabi, mizen and a host of other plants your local CSA will introduce to you and your family. Visit Local Harvest to find a CSA opportunity near you.
Find a Farmers Market.
Look no further than your smartphone’s map app to search for a local farmers markets. While it’s a romantic thought to show up at your market, buy what’s in season and go home to create a fabulous dinner, a good market strategy might be to pick a seasonal recipe from One Part Plant or Pretty Simple Cooking and go to market in search for specific ingredients. The best thing about eating plants is how interchangeable they are. Does your recipe ask for kale? Try Swiss chard, collard greens or cabbage depending on what catches your eye. Same goes for swapping out root vegetables or herbs in all your favorite soups and pestos. Make weekly market visits a habit this season and notice the changes that evolve in you and what’s on your table.