About a decade ago I had several occasions to study a bit into colonial Virginia history. It was not something I would’ve taken on just for the fun of it — but because it was related to earning a living the task was accomplished.
(At that time – my artist-husband had been commissioned by various counties to create special prints for their Commemorative years. The more knowledgeable we could become about colonial times — the better Bill’s completed “creation” would be.)
What I found interesting (but rather sad) was the tendency of human beings — no matter what the time period in history — to disregard the importance of growing food to sustain themselves.
Food or Tobacco (a cash crop)
When the colonists first arrived the Indians were friendly. They gave food to the colonists to keep them from starving and also showed them how to raise their own — and how to preserve some of it so they wouldn’t starve in the winter.
When tobacco became prized by the British, colonists started growing tobacco to fill the demand. They discontinued the growing of other crops — including food need to sustain them. They figured they could buy any food they needed with the money they made from the tobacco. (Sounds very current to me.)
Many times, things didn’t work out like that. When they were without food in the winter, colonists begged (or demanded) food from the Indians until the Indians had nothing left to give without starving themselves.
(The rest of the story doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the colonists. But rather human nature at its worst.)
Also interesting is the fact that in various “modern” accounts of colonial times, “excuses” are made for the colonists for not producing food.
One account claims that they weren’t able to produce other crops necessary for survival due to the rough climate. That’s just uninformed writing. My guess is that the writer could have reasoned: “surely the colonists would have grown food if they could so it must have been due to climate.”
The Indians had food and taught the white man how to get and grow food. The colonists just chose the cash crop tobacco instead of food.
Virginia weather hasn’t changed all that much since then. There are plenty of people growing all kinds of crops in Virginia including me. And I’m in the one of the very areas where tobacco was grown just about everywhere.
Moving into the 21st Century
Growing your own food is considered by many in this day and age to be old-fashioned, not necessary, or something retired people do.
I know lots of people who put in a few tomato plants or even grow a big garden. But I know very few who really depend on that food and/or utilize it to the full.
The underlying thought in society today seems to be: “It’s not necessary to grow food — we can just earn money and buy it as we go.” It’s accepted as “the modern way”. (Sounds just like colonial days.)
Processed Foods/Vegetables and Fruits Out of Season
Our society as a whole considers food preparation too time-consuming and too much work. Most people have been raised with processed, quick to prepare foods. The real purpose of food — which is to nourish us — seems to have been dismissed.
Even when folks shop for “fresh” vegetables in the super market, not too much thought is given to what it takes to get them on the shelves when those vegetables and fruits are out of season. Rest assured nature’s rules have to be broken. Most likely these “fresh” fruits and vegetables have pesticides, waxes, preservatives, other chemicals, and have been irradiated to make them look nice.
Taste? There is very little if any. Since they’ve been picked way ahead of time they don’t have time to develop their full flavor. And they lack nutrients as well.
Big Agribusiness Take Over
This attitude of not being concerned about our food and the willingness to leave it in a “stranger’s hands” is how big agribusiness has been able to take over and do just about anything they want without repercussion. The bottom line is profit in their pocket — not nutrition or good food or our well-being.
In the interest of supplying the demand for cheap food, vegetables and fruits out of season, and instant meals just about every law nature has put in place has been broken. To break those rules — comes with a price. A few of those prices are:
- Most of our soils in this country are depleted of nutrients and/or poisoned with insecticides and herbicides.
- Crops are plagued with insects because they no longer have all minerals and nutrients to withstand the attacks.
- Very little common sense and good animal husbandry exists where animals are raised conventionally for market.
- Poor health in this country seems rampant.
Eating Food that has been grown in the Proper Season and not Shipped across the World
If you can’t grow your own, locate farmer’s markets in your area and get to know the people who sell and grow the food. Get to know various farmers. Ask questions. Learn what’s coming in season.
Use the internet to locate what’s available in your area. Google things like:
- what’s in season in Virginia (put in your state),
- eat local,
- pick your own,
- seasonal food guide,
- farmer’s markets (in your area)
Take advantage of the low prices during a bountiful harvest in your area. Look into canning, freezing, and/or drying food that is in season so you can get the benefit of food at it’s best all year. If you don’t know how to do any of that —- learn. It’s a basic thing if you don’t want to be at the mercy of what the big box store carries.
Learn to cook simply, but deliciously. Food in season has much better taste and need not be fancy to be great tasting.
Even meat has a “best” season. If you’re a beef eater and can afford to buy in bulk — the best season for good beef is coming up. Beef fattened on the sweetened grasses of autumn is considered prime.
Little Bit by Little Bit is How you Prepare for the Winter
If all this is new to you, you need not go into overwhelm. A little here and a little there will get the job done.
I use thousands of tomatoes each year for tomato sauce. Sounds like a lot until I break it down to roasting every other day — 24 to 48 tomatoes — approximately 30 minutes to an hour preparing them for the oven—- during tomato season. As a result — I’ll not have to buy even one jar of organic tomato sauce. I’ll have my own and it’s much more delicious.
Only a few minutes each day towards freezing my in season bounty and my freezer is almost full.
- Frozen – Gallons of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, figs, peas, and tomato sauce.
- Smaller amounts of raspberry essence, lima beans, green beans, some cucumbers for smoothies, and soup also frozen.
- Have fresh onions to last through December.
- Potatoes still stored in the ground should last through November or December.
- Some dried beans.
- Still have a couple of dozen bulbs of garlic.
- When I’m finished freezing roasted tomato sauce I’ll probably have fresh tomatoes through December. Red peppers are bountiful this year and I hope to be able to freeze some.
- Still need to freeze some basil.
- Fresh parsley will go through the winter if I protect and ration. (I use lots.)
- Rosemary is fresh from the garden all winter
- Should have Russian Kale, various chards, lettuce and spinach all winter if all goes well.
One of the best things you can do for the health of you and your family is to eat organically and eat food that is obtained in the proper season and relatively close to you.
Laying up your in-season bounty ensures that you’ll continue that good healthful eating through the winter.
More About Storing Tomatoes
Organic gardening is easy, effective, effecient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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