January 12, 2020
Last summer and fall, when there was so much coming off the gardens, we would take the time to process tomatoes into juice, cucumbers into pickles, and peppers into hot sauces. But much of the extra produce just went directly into the freezer for processing when we’d have the time during the winter. Beans, peas, eggplants, and zucchini are among those that need to be partially cooked before they go into the freezer, but others like tomatoes, peppers, spinach, kale, parsley and dill keeps well if frozen without special preparation.
So, to cook a meal in the winter that uses any of the fruits and vegetables we grew last year, we just need to retrieve them from the freezer, root cellar and/or off the shelves of canned goods, combine them with onions and garlic and finish it off with a generous dash of dried herbs. It’s almost as good as going out and harvesting the produce fresh from the garden.
There is something comforting about knowing there’s lots of food stored away for the long winter. We do take advantage of the availability of tropical fruits and other goods that come from the balmy south, but it’s good to not be reliant on these luxuries. Dependence on foreign produced food is making us vulnerable.
In this age of rapidly advancing technology, easy access to goods, on line shopping etc., we are straying dangerously far from our roots. It’s a matter of balance. Technology has changed the world in a remarkable way. A discerning mind can access an incredible amount of valuable information, all available at our fingertips. We can contact people easily on the other side of the planet and get a response within minutes. The world has become a small place. However, we need to be cautious about abandoning basic skills. When the system breaks down, we should be able to quickly adapt.
The system we live in is, at best, a fragile one. Fully stocked shelves at supermarkets are a reassuring sight, but the food comes from hundreds or thousands of kilometres away. Very little originates locally. If suddenly the information network is made vulnerable by an event like an unusually powerful solar flare, there would undoubtedly be a disruption in service.
I recall a trip to a supermarket when the power failed. People were told to abandon their carts and leave the store immediately. As we walked out past fully stocked shelves, we were reminded that there can be so much food with nothing accessible because of an electronic glitch. Needless to say, we just went home and settled for our own stored goods. But it left me wondering. If the electricity did not come back on for several days, what kind of ramifications would it have for people who were completely dependent on their regular shopping for food.
Food security should be everyone’s concern. The best way to ensure that we always have enough to eat is to have the skills, a place to grow and a place to store our own produce. Then, make alliances with others who are growing food we don’t have in the garden. A local food network which includes local producers at farmers’ markets is the foundation of a strong, working community where people care for each other and share skills and goods. It all starts in the garden.
The rise of community gardens is especially important in building community. It allows people without a yard to try their hand at working in the soil, reconnect with the land, spend quality time in the outdoors and learn with others. As nothing is so sweet as the fruit of our labour, there is real fulfillment in producing our own food for fresh eating with a good amount stashed away for the winter.
The more we are each empowered by knowledge, skills and resourcefulness, the more likely we are able to weather whatever calamities come our way. Challenges encourage us to evolve as individuals and communities. A comfortable life is one that lacks the inspiration to evolve to higher levels. When disaster strikes, we are presented with an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, our abilities and willingness to work collaboratively with others to work our way through the crisis.
As we take on challenges with openness and resourcefulness, we will evolve both personally and as catalysts for change in our community. The simple act of gardening presents small challenges that we can take on comfortably. Being resourceful with the produce that comes from the garden is another challenge that helps develop the basic skills of being creative with food. By taking the approach of “waste not, want not” we will find ways to effectively store food for the half year when the garden isn’t producing.
Complacency does not serve us well. Avoiding challenges makes us more and more vulnerable and ends up making us feel like victims when disaster hits. Victims deny themselves the feeling of empowerment that comes with resourcefulness. Responsibility for the situation is shifted on others as we take one step backwards.
Humans are endowed with unlimited potential, both collectively and individually. With this potential, there should be sufficient food for the 7.8 billion of us without adversely affecting the other creatures that inhabit the earth. Many parts of the world are going through floods, droughts, fires and other calamities. This is a wake-up call to all of us not to take anything for granted other than our ability to deal with challenges in a constructive way. Growing some of our own food is a good start to improving human existence and impact on this amazing planet of ours.