If you’ve ever considered growing your own food but haven’t gotten around to actually starting the process, then Homesweet Homegrown (Microcosm Publishing, 2012) can help. This simple guidebook will nudge beginners out the door towards true green-thumbdom, assisting readers with everything from seed germination times to the proper method of canning vegetables. In this excerpt from Chapter 1, “Know,” Robyn Jasko explains the many good reasons for gardening and the differences between common seed types.
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Why Grow Your Own Food?
There are so many reasons to grow your own food these days. Whether you have a container garden in New York City or a raised bed in suburbia, you can grow your own food no matter where you live, without a huge amount of work. Because, here’s a secret: gardening doesn’t have to be complicated.
You take some soil and some seeds, and you make food. Making food means you don’t have to go to the supermarket. By not going to the supermarket, you aren’t contributing to the cycle of food transportation, fuel costs, pollution, and the absurd reality that those tomatoes you see in the store actually came from a country thousands of miles away. But that’s just one reason to grow food, here’s more:
Homegrown Food Tastes Better
Quite simply, food that you grow tastes a lot better because it wasn’t sprayed with pesticides and it didn’t sit in a truck that was driven across the country. And, by growing your own, you’ll have access to culinary varieties that your regular supermarket doesn’t even carry. Purple basil, heirloom garlic, yellow beets, blue pumpkins—just think of the amazing dinners!
Growing, making, and storing food is also rewarding, and a perfect way to add some balance to our stressed out crazy world. There are actually studies that support this—even just five minutes of putting your hands in the soil can give you a better perspective and improve your mood.
Rising Food Costs
We almost can’t afford to not grow our own food these days. And, food costs are expected to keep going up, doubling by 2030, according to a recent study by Oxfam. Growing a small raised bed or even a few tomato plants on a balcony can save a lot of money.
You’ll Know Where Your Food Comes From
No more mystery spinach—when you go out back to harvest lettuce or pick basil, you’ll know for sure that it wasn’t sprayed with heavy duty pesticides, or tainted with ecoli runoff from factory farms.
Kids Love Gardening
And, why not? Gardening is like magic when you think about it. But, more importantly, growing food teaches kids to be self sufficient, and to know where their food comes from. It’s easy for kids to think food comes from a supermarket. That’s why I love seeing children at the community garden pull up beets with a huge smile on their faces, or look in amazement at the giant pumpkin growing.
Food is power, so it’s time to take matters into our own hands and start something. And this book will show you how to grow, store, and make as much food as possible on the cheap.
Grow For Broke
Produce is expensive—and the costs keep going up. Especially for good organic food. Even herbs and salad greens, which can be grown on a windowsill anywhere, anytime, are $5 for a tiny box. By growing your own, you can save a lot of money, especially if you grow from seed.
Here’s an example:
Cost of tomato plant: $3 or about 25 cents if you grow it from seed
Average Pounds per plant: 10 to 15
Cost per pound for organic tomatoes at the store: $4
Cost per pound for homegrown tomatoes: 20 to 30 cents (from plants), or just 2 to 3 cents (from seed)
or, take beets:
Cost for beet seed packet: $3 for 75 seeds
Average pounds of beets per packet: 50
Cost per pound for organic beets at the store: $3
Cost per pound for homegrown beets: 6 cents
And, this doesn’t include the high cost of heirlooms—which are usually $1 a pound more because they taste awesome and come in all sorts of different colors, shapes and sizes.
Hybrid, Heirloom, Organic, GMO: What’s the Difference?
There are so many terms for seeds being thrown around these days that it can be confusing to know what’s what. Here’s a quick lowdown:
This is a true seed that has been around for at least 60 years, most likely a lot longer. Heirloom seeds are usually open pollinated, meaning that wind or insects fertilize the seed. They’ll breed true to their parent plants, so if you harvest seeds and replant them you will get the same variety. Heirlooms are key to having a truly sustainable garden, since you won’t have to buy seeds every year and can actually save a ton of money this way.
Not to be confused with GMO (genetically modified organisms), hybrid seeds are naturally bred for beneficial characteristics such as disease and insect resistance, new flower types, improved vitamin content in vegetables and grains, and many other characteristics. The downside with hybrids is that their seed doesn’t resemble the parent plant, so you cannot reliably save their seeds.
Genetically Modified Seeds (GMO)
GMOs are manmade seeds where scientists insert genetic material into a plant to add a characteristic that is not naturally there. No, it’s not a Phillip K. Dick novel, this is happening now, and GMO corn, beets, and soybeans are already at your supermarket.
These seeds are highly controversial. In some parts of the world, they are outlawed. No one knows the longterm ramifications of turning nature into Frankenfood. And while the “official” word from the U.S. government is that such seeds are safe, contradictory evidence indicates otherwise.
GMO crops were created in the 1970s specifically to be resistant to Roundup—a dangerous pesticide that is produced by Monsanto, a company patenting GMO crops. See the connection? New studies are showing that the past 30 years of using Roundup on GMO crops have brought on a new breed of super weeds, which farmers are treating with even more pesticides.
More and more articles are coming out showing the irreversible health and environmental effects GMO crops are having on people and animals as they enter the food supply, but until they are outlawed, we are the guinea pigs. And that’s one more reason to grow your own food.
Organic seeds are grown, saved, and stored without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, GMOs, irradiation, and biosolids in your food. When shopping for seeds, or for produce, choosing organic is definitely the safest way to go and a good way to keep GMOs and pesticides off your plate and out of your garden.
The Great Food Fight
There’s a battle going on today for food. Between rising food costs, factory farming causing deadly ecoli runoff on vegetables, and GMOs entering the food supply, growing your own food has never been more important.
Every time you buy or eat food you have a choice. And, that choice adds up. So, grow what you can, support local farmers and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and help fight the good food fight!
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Homesweet Homegrown, by Robyn Jasko, published by Microcosm Publishing, 2012.