I didn't realize until I tasted them out of my own garden, that it's entirely possible I've never tasted what blueberries are supposed to taste like. Or raspberries, or anything else that isn't meant to be shipped 17,000 miles to your local market. I've read that, in every book, and article, about local food, slow food etc... Heard it from the old folks round the way "Why, you've never tasted corn, until you've eaten it straight from the field!" Well my friends, I'm here to add to the chatter. Grow some fruit or herbs or vegetables for yourself or your family, and you won't believe the taste! I feel like I've been eating astronaut fruit my whole life.
Even if you only have a windowsill to put a little pot with kitchen herbs, or a patio for pots, you can grow your own food. If you have a front yard that's covered in grass, that you hate mowing, and probably shouldn't be watering, plant a vegetable garden. It can be just as ornamental, and delicious too!
Here are a few books that I've enjoyed reading on the subject of growing your own food. I've included a few for all levels, from gardening with your kids, to becoming an obsessive, homemade jam, and asparagus pickling, farmer.
Fanny at Chez Panisse, by Alice Waters, is a great book to give a kid who's interested in cooking, or growing food at home or school. The beginning of the book is a story about Waters' daughter Fanny and her adventures amid the staff at the famous Berkeley restaurant. The latter half of the book is recipes that are kid friendly and easy to follow.
You Grow Girl, by Gayla Trail, is an awesome book for people, with just a tiny bit of space, or a tiny bit of time, or no experience with plants whatsoever. It would be a great gift for a curious college student. I borrowed this book from my neighbor, and am having a hard time giving it back.
Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, chronicles several projects where the authors have transformed people's water hogging lawns into beautifully and sustainable vegetable gardens. It includes lots of photographs, and ideas. If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can see an exhibit of an "edible garden" they installed at Descanso Gardens. If you live in the LA area, this is also a good one, because as of June 1st, (yesterday), we've gone onto a restricted watering cycle, due to drought conditions. Let that lawn go, and plant some rosemary or lavender. It's good for the bees too!
Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver, is a great read. At times, she admits that she is over the top, making you feel a little less guilty about not quitting your job, moving to the country and living off the land, which she does with her family of four for one year. The book is funny, and filled with inspired recipes, and while I can't imagine canning tomatoes, I can see myself freezing some of the blueberries we planted last month, so we can have them in winter, when they are $5 for the tiniest little crate flown in from god knows where. Or trying to recreate Zingermans, spicy dill pickles, from cucumbers we grew three feet from the kitchen door.
Ok, now I'm off to organize Jack's toy bin, so that when Nipper Knapp gets back from the park, he's all "That's hot."