JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A bit of a rant

Eating healthily has involved us in trying to turn away from the food industry at least some of the time; part of this means being more self-reliant - more cooking, some growing. Not on an allotment scale (I'm never going to grow maincrop potatoes), but a few life-enhancing fruit and veg (the melon experiment was a huge success, also very easy), and lots of herbs. So this year has been a turning point in the vegetable garden here - & now I'm keen to grow lots more, even though the mice got the peas, the broad beans got blackfly and I forgot to plant the garlic. I've found a terrific resource, The Real Seed Catalogue, run by a couple called Ben and Kate from their small farm in Pembrokeshire. They grow most of the seeds they sell, and they have really unusual varieties: I'm going to try an early Ukranian melon called, irresistibly, Collective Farm Woman.

Ben and Kate are on a mission - they sell books by the 70s self-sufficiency guru John Seymour, and they give instructions for saving seed even though it can't be good for business. They're not keen on the food industry either; they concentrate their dislike on the big seed companies. This is what they say - it struck a huge chord here:

"... real farming is a project that has been ongoing for millenia, but now in the height of our tiny period of cheap oil, we think we know better and have turned it into just another industrial process. Your loaf of bread should represent stored sunlight and water, but 90% of its calories come from oil these days - for the ploughing, spraying, fertiliser, transport. When the oil runs out, who will have the real seeds that can grow without it? Seed-saving is easy. You will get better seed, better food, and help preserve 11,000 years of work for future generations!"

The trick will be to see if I can carry on feeling inspired by this attitude, rather than guilty if I don't live up to it. It didn't take much effort to sow the parsley, and every time I cut some (most days), I'm not using one of those one-trip plastic boxes supermarket herbs are packed in. So that's a gain (and the parsley tastes better). Tiny steps, one at a time, and, like a toddler, I expect to fall down quite a lot. It's the best I can do.

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