Plants have been doing this whole “life” thing a lot longer than humans have. They know how to convert sunlight into energy (impressive), gather the nutrients they need from their surroundings (how resourceful), and tempt creatures into spreading their seeds using a mind-blowingly diverse array of tastes, colors and smells. It sometimes makes you wonder who the “farmer” actually is!
The relationship between you and your garden vegetables is more complex than just “farmer” and “crop.” It involves awareness, attention to detail, and an understanding of the basic needs of most life forms (humans included).
You buried it up to its neck to give it strong roots and strength to withstand the elements. Suckers have been pinched, watering schedule has been closely followed, and nourishment has been provided. You’ve poured time, love and energy into bringing this living thing into fruition.
The moment you’ve been waiting for…
That first bite of juicy, ripe, sun-warmed tomato plucked straight from the garden, and you know you can never really go back. The store-bought stuff just won’t cut it anymore.
Why do homegrown tomatoes have the power to convert you forever?
You learn about yourself in the process.
I used to have a “brown thumb.” My houseplants struggles and I had no idea why. They couldn’t verbally tell me what they needed or what I was doing wrong. I got frustrated, impatient, and questioned putting my energy into trying to grow anything at all. Funny enough, my own health and life weren’t do so hot either.
That all changed when I decided to try my hand at growing food.
I learned the basic things that plants need to thrive – sun, water, nourishment and love – and discovered I needed them too.
I learned how to understand more subtle methods of communication – wilting, spots, unhealthy growth, and no flowers – and discovered the similarities with how my body expressed itself when it wasn’t getting what it needed.
As my thumb got greener, I noticed that my plants as well as my life were healthier, stronger and more fruitful. My first homegrown tomato was hands-down the best tomato I’ve ever eaten!
You are what you eat, and what your food eats.
The body is an incredible organism. It can turn something that is not physically part of your body (e.g. and apple) into the very cells and building blocks of your body within hours of eating it. Magic!
Whatever was on or in that apple just became part of you, and here’s why you might care.
All the plants that we enjoy eating have other organisms that like to eat them too such as insects, slugs, funguses, bacteria and viruses. Most consumers are obsessed with food being blemish-free and picture-perfect (and humans, for that matter), hence grocery stores only stock the best-looking produce.
Commercially farmed crops meet this standard by using synthetic and chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. These chemicals not only coat the outside of the foods you eat, but are also absorbed into the leaves and fruit. You can’t wash that off. If they “eat” pesticides, you eat pesticides.
The power to decide what goes in your body starts with what goes into growing the food you eat.
Picture-perfect or toxin-free – that choice is your to make.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a yearly list for the USA called the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen (other countries may have stricter growing standards). It’s a great resource for knowing what crops are the most heavily sprayed with pesticides, thus most important to buy organic.
Some crops are worse than others, especially apples, strawberries, tomatoes, salad greens and cucumbers.
Growing your own food allows you to have complete control over your food source and what goes into it. You get to determine how to deal with pests and diseases, what you want to use to feed and nourish your plants with.
They come on a vine, not in a box.
We’ve all heard older generations remark that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to.” Food is no exception. Have you ever bought the most beautiful looking tomato at the store only to find it dry and whitish in the middle with absolutely no flavor?
Crop varieties that were bred for boxes are in a completely different world than crops bred for the vine. The rectangular Roma tomatoes you find in the grocery store were picked while still green (unless advertised as vine ripened), gases with petroleum based chemicals when the distributors decide to “ripen” them, packed into refrigerated shipping containers, and sometimes transported for thousands of miles before they reach your dinner plate.
This doesn’t deserve the title of “tomato” if you ask me.
There are many varieties being kept alive by home gardeners and local farmers that will blow your socks off.
Exhibit A – Heirloom tomatoes.
These unique and diverse tomatoes wouldn’t even survive the first leg of a conventionally grown tomato’s journey. They are the definition of everything we love about homegrown produce.
No two look the same. They come in every different color, shape, size, flavor and degree of wrinkly. The best part? You know they’ve been allowed to age into their prime deliciousness.
Maturity just tastes better.
Age does something beautiful to life. It enriches it, brings depth, and cultivates an appreciation for the miraculous cycles of nature. Fruits, vegetables, cheeses, wines, and one could even say human beings, benefit from maturity.
Ripeness comes with age.
When crops are allowed to mature to their prime harvesting time, the plant is able to direct the most energy, nutrients and flavor into the leaves and fruit.
Your patience will be rewarded with delicious flavors, higher vitamin and mineral content, and foods that are aligned with the seasons. If you grow your own food or buy your produce from local farmers markets, you can ensure that your produce has been harvest within the last 24-48 hours.
Nourishment is a two way street.
Being involved in growing your own food satisfies a hunger beyond just your hunger for food. It satisfies desire for connection – connection to yourself, to others, and to the world around you.
You witness the life cycle of birth, growth, death, and decomposition. You come to understand that death isn’t bad, but a beautiful and necessary part of the cycle that makes new life possible.
You witness a living thing withstanding the elements, going with the flow, taking what is available to it (minerals in the soil, rain, sunshine, wind) and using them to become strong and fulfill its life purpose – to spread it’s seed while nourishing other life in the process.
Growing your own food, whether it’s a container of kitchen herbs or a full sized garden, is a beautiful opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You see the results of putting your time, energy, love and care into helping another living thing grow. It’s a two way street: you nourish life and life nourishes you.
There’s so much more to life than rectangular, store-bought tomatoes. Join the growing numbers of home gardeners and farmers market customers and start eating the delicious fruits of life.