On the eve of Earth Day, I am reminded of how food connects us to the Earth and makes us human. It's currently in vogue to "eat local," shop at farmers markets and join a co-op or Community Supported Agriculture group. I understand the importance of these movements. I decided to become a farmer after volunteering at a farmers market and reading many books focused on modern food issues.
It's okay to eat for political reasons. But what about flavor and experience?
Many chefs will tell you that the main reason they buy food from local growers is flavor. It's not because they feel their money should support a small business, a local business or a friend. It's not because they want to reduce pollution from transportation. More than anyone else, chefs love to eat. They love to play with flavors and experience the full range of intensity. No chef likes a rock-hard-plain-old-red tomato from Mexico in February. But they love ripe Cherokee Purples and fresh greens picked four hours ago. Taste.
The experience of producing your own food changes the dynamics of eating. If you've ever made bread, you are much more conscious of its quality while you eat it. You understand the work that went into producing the final product, so details pop out more. Crust. Crumb. Moisture. That lump of undercooked dough in the middle. The more you cook, the more you understand about the kitchen.
Combine food politics, flavor and experience and grow your own. Forget your black-thumb fears and those pre-started plants from the hardware store. Do it from seed. That sense of wonder you experienced sprouting a bean as a kindergartner never diminishes. People have been tending to plants for thousands of years, so I have confidence you can do it.
Try growing something small, like corn salad (also called mache or rapunzel). You can do it in a pot by a sunny window. Make a shallow row, drop in the seeds, cover them and add water. Wait.
There are no excuses. A packet of heirloom veggie seeds costs less than $3. When more people get involved in their own food, environmental issues will start to make more sense. By touching food at all stages, we can understand how it affects us on physical, mental and environmental levels. We can see how much it means to be a part of Nature. Plus, you will eat better foods than you can buy, and there's no reason to overthink that.