Have you noticed how expensive supermarket food has become in recent months? Last spring I cut back on non-essentials (ice cream, biscotti and expensive cheeses, for us) so we could continue to afford our essentials: organic produce, TenRen tea, olive bar olives and good wine. (;-) Still, our weekly grocery bill continued to rise uncomfortably.
In May, I decided to act. I dug a new garden, enriched the soil, and intensively planted heirloom tomatoes, peppers and squash; beans; carrots, beets and potatoes; mesclun, arugula and chard. And, plenty of herbs, of course. (I’ve tended an organic kitchen garden for many years, but had scaled back recently because organic food has become widely available, and my free time has become less so.)
Located in the front yard (the only open, sunny space left on our property), our new garden attracted plenty of attention from neighbors. Folks I barely had spoken with before stopped by to watch, inquire and chat—as they continued to do throughout the summer. About the same time, I began to notice other kitchen gardens sprouting up, all around our little town. Our local garden centers have been busier than they’ve been in years. Neighbors seem to have become more neighborly—asking about each others’ peppers, suggesting deterrents for deer, discussing plans to expand their patches next spring.
Harvest season is underway, now, and I’m gathering much more than we can use. I’ll freeze some, can some and give away some. By growing our own this summer, we’ve certainly saved money. But we’ve reaped so much more: delicious, quality food; good exercise; the serenity that comes from tending plants and soil; the grounded feeling of being part of a community; even … hope. Hard times? Maybe not.