I would like to thank everyone for replies last week. Unfortunately I was not able to reply until this weekend—and by then I had decided to write it here. So again..thanks! Lots of good ideas for using chard and I will be trying many, if not all, of them. Also…the comments on the bugs were very funny. Very! Had me laughing. Which by the way I really am sure were an unmarried couple. Considering the very public location I am surprised he didn’t get in trouble —and she thrown in jail for soliciting ;-D
Anyway, speaking of last weeks article brings me to the point of this weeks article. Matron asked me why did I grow Chard if I didn’t like it.
Well…good question. And really, I have a good answer. Or at least I think it’s a good answer.
Remember how over the last few years many of us have tried to “go local” with our food if only for a certain time of the year—say Thanksgiving or the summer? Whether local meant your yard, your city or within a say 200 mile radius, many more of us became familiar with that term. Of course some of us were already heading in that direction but with Micheal Pollen and Joel Salatin (and many other good writers and bloggers) talking more and more about our food, the term took on a greater meaning and understanding. Overall many more people became aware of the idea of eating locally and sustainable.
Many of us also decided to add to the idea of trying to eat more locally by also trying to eat more “in season”–even if we had to purchase from a grocery store. Many of us began to say no to tomatoes and cucumbers in January. Of course…again to throw out someone well known…Elliot Coleman had really been pushing the envelope and teaching us about growing as much as we could, out of the “normal” season, and without a bit of supplemental energy, if we wanted to try and grow it ourselves instead of just buy it. Obviously if you are trying to eat local as often as you can, you will eat a bit more “in season” as the two are not easily separated.
There are however times when that falls to the way side or becomes difficult considering the way we, meaning U.S citizens, are raised. I am sure other countries have this same issue but since I don’t live in those I will not comment on them. As an example of these difficulties I am speaking of I have to ask this question: why is the most common salad combination served basically lettuce and tomato? Most every restaurant has a “house salad” as a side and all of them include those two items. To anyone that has ever gardened however it is painfully obvious that lettuce and tomatoes do not grow at the same time. Well…maybe in Elliot Colemans yard they do, but I am sure we can all agree that that is probably more the exception than the the rule. I consider myself fairly experienced in gardening but without the investment of a really well placed and well made greenhouse—I will not get tomatoes and lettuce at the same time in my climate. So unless I make gardening and selling produce my living….no tomatoes and lettuce for me together in the same bowl. Unless the tomatoes are previously canned anyway.
I could of course come up with many other examples of this type of out of season combos but I think that one stands out head and shoulders above the others. I am also sure there are a number of you that grew up with favorite recipes or meals that, in some form or fashion, incorporate food products that are grown during different seasons of the year. I know I was. Combinations that are not sustainable in the sense of local or in season. This makes learning how to eat local and seasonally quite difficult. Over the last few years as I have become much more serious about growing the majority of our own food I realize how many many recipes and cookbooks require pairings of foods that do not grow at the same time. It’s one thing to occasionally eat an avocado or banana but if every recipe needed one of those two things then I could never ever be completely self sufficient. Because unfortunately no matter how hard I try avocados and bananas will never grow in my climate—even with a greenhouse.
I also know we probably won’t ever be 100% self sufficient….but I think you see where I am going with this.
Also I believe, and this is just my opinion, that since the advent of fast food and t.v dinners we, as a society, have narrowed our food choices. Narrowed them down to the most easily grown commercial foods and combinations.
Off with the heads of the rest!!
All the time there are articles about how many heirloom seed varieties are lost each year and how many rare breed livestock animals there are. Why? Well, that would be because we eat pretty much the same thing across most of the world. News stories often talk about “ If rice fails this year blah blah number of people will starve in third world countries (or Asia or Africa…pick a place)”. But what about if chicken failed? Or beef? Or potatoes like the great Potato Famine in Ireland? Have you heard about the potential wheat problem (called Ug99)? If all I eat is the sum total of some wheat, green beans, black beans, tomatoes, some lettuce, kale, spinach, corn and the occasional potato along side my beef,pork or chicken then I could be in a serious load of trouble at some point.
Now I am not saying “oh the world is doomed” kind of thing but hey…..if we all eat only 6 or 7 foods what are we going to do when one or two of them can’t be had?? There are a lot of people in this world eating those same 6 or 7 foods.
And ouch! Some hungry people are going to be out there clamoring for the 5 or 6 that are left.
So..coming back to Chard.
Chard grows really really well for me. It doesn’t seem bothered by pests. It grows in cooler AND warmer weather, wetter AND dryer weather. So…I should learn to eat it. Obviously it is a natural item for an inclusion into an eat local and seasonal diet for me. Beyond that…I don’t have to can it or freeze it since it grows for such an extended period in my garden. Which in turn saves time and energy (mine and the power plants). It also is just now dying in my garden after weeks of no rain. I could water it…but since it’s not my favorite I push it to the back burning of water allotment. I will of course grow it again….and again. I just didn’t say I would expend my precious water on it over say…my tomatoes
For most of my adult life I have been a firm believer in the theory that if you don’t like a food you just haven’t eaten it in the right dish. Try try again is my motto. Until I find a way to like it. Now whatever it is may never be my favorite but if I have to eat it for some reason or it is the only thing available….I won’t be gagging it down or gacking it back up. Beyond that it also helps me to be polite when I am a guest at someone’s house. And yes..we are guests often… and we have had people comment to us on more than many occasions about how nice we are as guests because we are not picky and very easy to feed. Our children included. They too have been taught this.
I am used to trying and eating things that don’t particularly hit my “favorite” button. However…I can do it because I have done it often enough. No big deal.
Beyond that I never want to be like the husband of a lady in my children’s home school group. She told us this story about her family in passing one afternoon (years ago):
“My husband and I went to dinner to so and so’s house the other night. She served spaghetti but she puts bell peppers in her sauce. My husband hates bell peppers so he just pushed them off to the side of the plate. She used so many he had a pretty large pile on the side. My kids did too since they don’t like them either. I don’t mind them though and kind of enjoyed them.” I asked, “oh…do they upset his stomach like they do mine?” and she replied, “oh no…he just doesn’t like them. He’s very picky and I have to make special dishes for him often.”
I leave you with that story….and the challenge to try to find at least one recipe for the things you think you don’t like. And to never pile your peppers to the side of your plate at someone else’s house.
We need to open our minds and our gardens to new ideas about food. It’s a good thing as Martha would say.