In the past when I heard the phrase, “Grow your own food,” I imagined people in overalls with lots of land and time constantly hovering over a vast array of plants. Lately, though, I’ve begun to think about it differently. I have started to see it as something that even I—who have little plant knowledge, low levels of sunlight, and poor urban soil—can do.
I mean, I’m not about to believe that I can grow every lick of food I consume, or even a fair proportion of it. But I am realizing that I can grow a couple of edible treats with very little effort, a big sense of accomplishment, and a much-needed feeling that I am connected to the natural world.
First, it started with garlic. A gardener friend of mine told me years ago that all you have to do to grow garlic is stick it in the ground. (The reality is only slightly more complicated, as I discovered with a quick Google search.) That mental seed took a long time to sprout, but last winter, I dug a few holes, sprinkled in a little compost (thanks to the compost program at our neighborhood farmer’s market) and plopped some bulbs of organic garlic in the ground. (The picture up top shows the state of these efforts as of yesterday. Each shoot will allegedly yield a head of garlic. Look out, Dracula!)
Next I stopped by a stall at the farmer’s market that was selling herb plants. I asked the farmer which would be most tolerant of only mediocre levels of light, which is all my first-floor apartment can claim. He suggested mint. I bought a plant, re-potted it and stuck it on my windowsill. And I’m happy to report that so far, so good: I’ve had chopped mint on salad, in a yogurt dip, and straight off the plant. It is intensely gratifying to mosey over to the windowsill and pluck a leaf or two for that night’s dinner.
Then, I read about the phenomenon of Slow Gardening in the New York Times. In this article, one of slow gardening’s main proselytizers, a middle-aged Mississippian named Felder Rushing, exhorts a non-gardener to “Grow a pot of lettuce, man!” And when that challenge I thought, “OK!” I have to wait until it gets a little warmer to make it happen, but I’m looking forward to dipping my toe a little further in the food-growing waters.
I’ve found this whole foray to be really exciting. I am practically stalking those garlic shoots, checking up on them each day to see how much they’ve grown in the last 24 hours. And I can’t help but smile when my daughter, Lil, ambles over the mint plant, scoops out a clump of dirt, and rubs it between her hands. I know how she feels— I’ve been craving a more direct connection to nature too.
Take care and keep breathing,