It would be easy to think the image at the top of the column is a Photoshop construct. It isn’t. It’s from a real cover of a real magazine published for farmers in 2008. The good news is that the “farmer” in the photo is protecting himself from the poison he is delivering to the crops. The bad news is that no such protection is afforded us from that same poison once the crop becomes food. Nor is there any protection provided to the planet.
Do you realize that the image portrays the reality of our food production and the toxic chemicals in use? The image serves a point. It should inspire any human who eats food to consider the source. Especially this time of year, there is something every food eater can do about it. Here’s why and how.
Grow your own. Any eater who wants to eat better and safer food has the opportunity. Even if you live in a one-room apartment, find a place to grow a lettuce bowl near a kitchen window. Ya gotta start somewhere. And if you have access to a plot, yours or a community garden, right now is the time to act. Growing food need not be difficult. And the reward is that your food will be fresher, more nutritious and you will control the purity. Start easy. And you can plant cole crops as early as March.
Leafy greens. The list of easy-to-grow greens is long. And not only are greens easy to grow, greens are the superfoods of the vegetable world. Swiss chard, collards, spinach, bok choi and, yes, kale, are all easy. They are all part of a group of vegetables known as cole crops. Chard may be the best return on investment. Pick up a packet of Swiss chard seeds and the hardest work is done. Some chards are fancy colored or such. There are many varieties and my advice is to keep it simple. Plain varieties are the easiest and hardiest.
Soil prep and planting. With chard, you can go all out and till and amend with minerals and such or you can just loosen up the soil a little. Chard wants to grow. Follow the easy instructions on the packet and you’re a farmer in minutes. Basically, you just poke your finger in the dirt about an inch and drop in a seed. Space them about 8 inches in a row. The important thing then is to water. In seven to ten days, you’ll see them sprout up. Beware of bunnies at first but in a couple of weeks, the tender leaves will be ready for salad. By the time the plants are ten inches high or so, the bunnies leave them alone.
Eat it. Chard will grow almost all year long. The latest in the year I’ve harvested chard is December 22. Once your crop starts coming in, the big, leafy greens will reach 12 to 24 inches and more. You just take scissors and trim the ones you want, cutting close to the ground. Leave the inner leaves and the plant will keep producing for months. You’ll find it a challenge to keep up with production even if your plot is only 4 by 8 feet. I’ll typically harvest, rinse, blanche and roll up small ziplock bags, each holding a couple servings and freeze. A morning in the kitchen and I’ll have weeks of servings in the freezer. (Today is March 29, 2021 and I just ate the last of my crop planted in March, 2020.)
Chard can be eaten fresh and raw in salad, lightly steamed or tossed in any kind of recipe, including soups. Nutritionally, chard qualifies as a superfood. So, there you have your easy greens.
You say tomato… Another easy-to-homegrow crop is tomatoes. Again, from either pot or plot, it’s a tasty addition to your fresh, wholesome dive into horticulture. Apartment bound? You can likely get a decent harvest on a patio or balcony using a large pot; especially cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes don’t have nearly the lengthy growing season of cole crops but they’ll reward the home farmer with nutritious and variable uses. It’s typical to grow tomatoes from seedlings so your first trip is to a local nursery. I choose local nurseries that start their own seedlings in my home area. Local means these are usually varieties that thrive in my growing zone. For Nebraska growing and planting zones, check out the USDA website. (1)
Nature’s Prozac, too. And remember, Heartland Healing has often featured columns about the famous mycobacterium Vaccae. It’s a nonpathogenic bacterium found in the soil that somehow causes the brain to release extra amounts of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Exposure to m. Vaccae and you feel good. So get outside and play in the dirt. And don’t go anywhere near a haz-mat suit.
Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.