From Seed To Harvest

manifesto on seed

For my 40th birthday some close friends of mine gave me a gift certificate to a book store. I have been interested in reading literature by Vandana Shiva for some time so I took the opportunity to purchase “Manifestos On The Future Of Food & Seed” by South End Press (www.southendpress.org).

Vandana Shiva is not the only contributor. Individuals such as the American author and activist Michael Pollan and the founder of the Slow Food Movement Carlo Petrini are featured as well.

I would recommend this book for a number of reasons. To begin with if you are not familiar with Vandana Shiva you should be, she is brilliant, in fact that may be an understatement. She has a bachelors degree in physics, she pursued an M.A. in the philosophy of science and has her Ph.D. in philosophy.

Another reason I would recommend this manifesto is because in America we vote with our dollars. Most people have no idea what they are voting for when they walk into a supermarket. In fact it would be safe to say that the majority of consumers may even be under the impression that they are making a healthy purchase, one that supports the environment, farmers and their own health when in all reality it happens to be the exact opposite. Most of us live very busy lives and we have to pick and choose our battles. Global corporations work hard to deceive us as do lawmakers in Washington and other parts of the world. This book enlightens us and sets the record straight.

I realize this may seem a little overwhelming, especially if you are hearing this for the first time. I also realize that a lot you may not even care for politics but this is the bottom line heirloom produce is political in its very nature. Choosing to save seed, grow organic and support local economies is political. Making healthy choices that will affect your family and the environment is political in essence.

Regardless of your personal politics I think we can all agree that things have gotten a little out of control. Corporate profits are more important than the earth, our health, our income and our dignity as a global community. As I mentioned before we have to choose our battles wisely. It would seem this would be a subject worth knowing about. It is something we do every day, eat. We feed our families on a daily basis, when we gather to celebrate; we feed ourselves if nothing else. Eating is not simply consuming, it is a sacred process when closely examined. We should be educated on Orwellian laws such as the U.S. “farm bill”. We should be aware that one company, Monsanto, “owns” nine tenths of the worlds seed stock and are responsible for genetically modified seed, GMO’s. We should be aware of where our fruit, vegetable and meat comes from and the conditions of the livestock and those working to put food on our table have to endure.

It is much easier to simply ignore the issue and continue supporting the same companies that are poisoning the soil, our precious water and our bodies. The same companies that closing down thousands of family farms a year and are promoting a sort of global slave labor. There is certainly convenience in mass produced food but in truth it is not sustainable. It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that safe, clean food produces better yields, is healthier for us and the environment and most importantly is sustainable.

Do yourself a look into “Manifestos On The Future Of Food & Seed” by South End Press.

ImageOn this morning of daylight savings I walk through our woods alive with the brilliance of sound.  A downy woodpecker carves a tree amongst the beech, maple, oak and birch. Nearby the early birds of spring triumphantly proclaim that they have returned through manic flight and song as they dash to and fro amongst the skeletons of berry bramble.

My young beagle and old terrier, on the leash, parade with tails in the air and their nose to the ground as the frozen forest path serenades them with a banquet of tantalizing smells and sounds.  In this moment they are both pups again, alive with possibility of the new season.

Snowdrops begin to stretch their tiny green limbs while yawning from beneath the leftover winter snow. I, like them, turn my face toward the warm sun searching for spring. There is no breeze as I stand among the slowly waking forest, a frame of Mother Nature’s grand picture.

Today, along with my children, I will explore the thawing mud of the garden while plotting the summer bed of each delicate seed. Eventually I will climb our apple tree limb by limb with cold red hands and prune the branches in hopes of bounty. Spring the purveyor of dreams is here!

Mint

Mint is a tenacious plant that once established will quickly spread its roots the length of your garden and beyond. For this simple reason it tends to get a bad name and people shy away from it but mint actually has numerous health benefits as well.

Fresh mint is high in vitamin A, B12 and C. It also contains copper, iron and zinc to name just a few essential minerals found in this aromatic plant. This rich herb is known to help calm irritable bowels and heartburn. It also helps with bad breath, which is probably obvious, and is known for its ability to combat the growth of fungus.

Mint comes in a number of flavors. The borders of our vegetable and herb gardens are surrounded by chocolate mint but you can also purchase plants that range from pineapple to peppermint. As mentioned earlier mint is extremely aggressive and thus very easy to grow. Whether full sun or a forgotten crack in a walk-way mint will take advantage of the opportunity and thrive. It is a really great plant to grow if you have children. Since it does take off so rapidly kids feel an immediate sense of accomplishment and my kids love to graze on the flavorful leaves from early spring to late fall. Later in the year when it flowers the bees will show their gratitude as well.

Fresh from the garden it can be used in tea or even main dishes such as rice or lamb. It dries easily and stores rather well even if that means simply tying a few sprigs together and hanging them from the herb rack.

Another benefit of mint is that fleas supposedly can not stand the stuff. We began growing it around our dogs kennel after finding this out a year or two ago and it seems to have cut down on the problem.

Oregano

Oregano is listed as a perennial in warm climates and an annual in areas that experience heavy winters. Our gardens are located in southern New York State and it is a perennial in our plot, so it is safe to say it is reasonably hardy.

Oregano , or wild marjoram as it is sometimes called, is an extremely healthy addition to your cuisine. Believe it or not one fresh gram of this herb has four times the antioxidant activity of blueberries, twelve times that of oranges and an astounding forty-two times the antioxidant activity of apples. It has a very high level of vitamin K and is also an above average source of iron, fiber and calcium.

One of the advantages of growing your kitchen garden close to your back door is that it makes it easy to gather fresh herbs and veggies for your meals. Oregano can be served and stored a number of ways but it goes without saying that fresh from the garden is the recommended method. You can also dry it or freeze as well. Both preservation methods allow one to use this medicinal herb deep into the winter months.

 

Chives

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Chives have been used by man for at least 5,000 years. When researched a bit it is no wonder they have been such an established crop generation after generation when measured by their hardiness, their flavor and their health properties.

Chives are the smallest member of the onion family. They do well in sun or shade and propagate rather easily. Their purple flower heads scatter seed that quickly takes root. Once established it is a good idea to divide the plant every 3 or 4 years. Of course you can give some to family or friends but division also aids the garden in terms of pest control. Chives help keep certain pest such as the pesky Japanese beetle at bay. So consider digging up a small portion of the bulk herb and placing it in key locations in your garden. Of course the opposite holds true as well in that it attracts beneficial such as bees to your garden by way of their large flowers. Another interesting note in regards to its beneficial properties is its ability to protect your apple trees from apple scab disease simply by growing around the trees trunk.

Chives also happen to be similar to garlic in its health benefits, just not as potent. Chives are high in vitamin A & C and also contain calcium and iron. Iron is something a lot of folks lack in their diet.

You can eat chives fresh from the garden, dry them or freeze them, though drying tends to retain the least amount of flavor. They go well with soups and stews, potatoes and even salads. I recently had a great aunt mention that she prefers them to onions because they are gentler on her stomach, certainly something to keep in mind.  

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Chamomile has been used for centuries by man to cure ailments. Basically there are two main types, german and roman chamomile. German chamomile tends to find its way into our american gardens. This relative of the daisy helps with nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting. This vigorous plant is generally recognized as a carminative, tonic and a sedative. Chamomile […]

Arugula

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Arugula, or rocket as it is occasionally called in the states, is new to our garden this year. Anyone who has grown lettuce knows that after a few hundred salads it becomes important to get creative and add interesting flavors to your greens in order to keep interest in the pursuit of health. That is exactly the reason that we decided to grow arugula this year and it has turned into an interesting treat not only in taste but in the historical sense as well.

Garden rocket is native to the Mediterranean. The Romans grew this relative of the radish and watercress for both its leaf and seeds. The seed was used as a flavoring oil. According to the Cambridge World History of Food there are records of it being used in aphrodisiacs all the way back to the 1st century AD, is there a better reason to eat your vegetables?    

Over the years one point of interest I have written about is how a gardener of humble means can eat gourmet simply by growing their own food. Arugula is a good example of this. A cornerstone of Italian cuisine as well as the American gourmet market one can grow rocket quite easily in their own backyard. This year I grew a number of greens and hands down the arugula had the best germination rate of the group.

Before trying it for the first time I read descriptions of taste that ranged from peppery,similar to a nasturtium flower, all the way to nutty on the palate. I would have to say that I found the loose oak shaped leaf to have a hint of nut that was not overpowering but really added a nice flavor to a potentially bland salad. I have also read that you can coat it with a little olive oil and steam it for a delicious side dish.  

Arugula is also very healthy for you as one may imagine. It is very high in vitamin A and C. It contains beneficial amounts of calcium and magnesium. It is also extremely low in calories.

If you happen to find yourself looking for something new in your garden or salad mix this year I would highly recommend trying some garden rocket. Whether your plot provides full sun or a shady corner it takes root quite well.