My mother, and my aunt who lived next door to us, had very large vegetable gardens. It was common in the Amana Colonies where I grew up for the German omas to tend large vegetable and flower gardens. I've been thinking lately about these gardens and the way our meals, throughout the summer months especially, revolved around what my mother and aunt grew. After watching an episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution this past weekend, which confirmed my sinking feeling that this country is in big trouble nutritionally, I've been thinking even more about my mother's garden and my smaller version, and the healthy eating a vegetable garden promotes.
There was huge importance placed on all aspects of my mother's garden. The week before the soil was scheduled to be tilled was filled with great anticipation. It was viewed by my mother and aunt as a momentous event and because of that, we all came to see it that way.... what would we do if it rained?... and the man they hired to perform this task had to cancel?... and it could possibly be another week?.... I think my mother loved being in her garden more than anything else. After the soil was prepped she would be out there daily, usually doing most of her work before I woke up, while the air was still cool. Every meal throughout that summer was made up of some fruit or vegetable grown in our garden. We looked forward to certain foods because we knew we would only be eating these foods at that time, when they were in-season. Eggplant in February? Never... but in August we would eat it non-stop. It may not be possible for many to even consider planting a vegetable garden, but with the increase of farmers' markets nationally and the availability of many fruits and vegetables outside of our own growing season, why aren't we all eating healthier?
In addition to the vegetable garden, my mother also had a very large strawberry patch. Whenever I headed down to the garden to pick berries for my mother, I ended up eating more than I eventually brought back to the kitchen. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful at growing strawberries in my own garden; a problem that could possibly be solved by covering the plants with netting. Years ago my attempts at growing and harvesting strawberries were scuttled by hungry birds. More recently, it's because of my French Bulldog Pipi who eats anything and everything (heirloom tomatoes being her favorite).
So how could I pass up these brilliant red strawberries at the grocery store? I know what a carton of strawberries will taste like in April. They will not come anywhere close in taste or sweetness to locally grown berries found at the markets in June and July. But tossed with some sugar and sandwiched along with freshly-whipped cream between sweet, flaky scones, they somehow tasted just fine. I think Pipi would even find them acceptable.