In my initial post about The Amateur Garden, I mentioned that I always envisioned myself growing and harvesting armfuls of veggies. Well, I am now 3 months into vegetable gardening, and I can tell you that my vision was a little bit off. The armfuls of bright, deliciously ripe veggies that I imagined are more like small handfuls. Despite the meager amounts that I am harvesting, I can now proudly say that I have grown my own food. To see a breakdown of what I’ve harvested so far, scroll to the bottom of this post.
Unfortunately, if I were to try to live off of my small 4′ x 4′ garden I’d be starving. But it’s still important to me to eat seasonal fruits and veggies and to support local farmers. When you harvest food directly from your land, there’s no question about whether or not the food is in season, because you’re the one growing it. A tomato isn’t going to grow outside in the middle of a Minnesota winter, right? Food that’s grown and enjoyed when in season tastes better. So I don’t eat berries or melon in the winter, and I fill up on cucumbers and tomatoes in the summer.
Here are some ways to eat seasonally regardless of the success of your garden:
I absolutely love attending local farmer’s markets. There are several weekend markets that are fairly close to me and they’re packed every weekend. Picking out your veggies from what’s been harvested that week and getting to speak to the people growing the food you’re buying is both awesome and powerful. Farmer’s markets, in my opinion, are the simplest way to eat seasonal, locally grown produce and to support your local farmers. The USDA has a pretty comprehensive search tool to help you find farmer’s markets located near you.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
There are a lot of benefits to joining a CSA: you get a box of locally grown produce every week, you get to try cooking with new-to-you veggies, you get to visit the farm where your food is grown, and you get to know the farmers who are growing your food. While I’ve never been a member of a CSA, but I hope to join one in the future, I think the idea of picking up a mystery box of ingredients is exciting. It’s kind of like the show Chopped, minus the gummy bears and other bizarre ingredients. To find a CSA that delivers near you, check out the Local Harvest site.
I find that trying to shop locally at a big supermarket is hit or miss. I’ve had experiences where I pick up a bunch of kale and I’m surprised to find that it was grown right here in Georgia. At the same time, I’ve picked up a tomato in the middle of the summer, only to discover that it was grown and imported from Canada. If you want to shop seasonal at your local grocery store, where every fruit and vegetable under the sun is sold, you have to show up prepared and know what’s currently in season. Having a meal plan mapped out, even if it’s vague, based on what’s currently in season is helpful. As for buying locally, I’ve noticed that many grocery stores have started labeling items that are locally grown, but again, it’s a bit hit or miss.
Here is a breakdown of my total harvest so far:
- Whopper cucumbers: 4
- Straight Eight cucumbers: 1
- Sungold tomatoes: 5
- Fairytale eggplants: 1
- Herbs: I could prune my basil and mint plants daily and get big handfuls of each.
As for everything else in the garden:
- Whopper tomatoes: I have 1 big green tomato, but it appears as though a worm has taken up residence in it.
- Okra- burgundy, and Burmese: On the brink of flowering, I’m hoping for lots of okra.
- Jalapeño: I have 1 pepper that’s maintained the same size for about 5 weeks now.
- Bell pepper: It’s like the Charlie Brown of bell pepper plants, but I’m staying hopeful.
- Squash (both zucchini and yellow crookneck): I pulled out both sad, wilted plants last week when I discovered vine borers.
To quote a fellow gardener from Instagram (@i_dig_my_food), “You’re harvesting edible food. It’s a win!”