Sweet Victory

Sweet Victory

Go green, frugal and healthy all in one fell swoop

By Ellen Snortland 03/19/2009

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No wonder my Mom adored First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Did you know that Roosevelt had a Victory Garden on the White House lawn, which she worked herself, growing vegetables to support the war effort? By her example, Eleanor got many Americans to grow food for their own tables.
 
You can do the same! I have often thought that we should return to our roots — literally — and grow some root veggies: carrots, beets and turnips. When I was a kid, my mother delighted in bringing in the first garden yields. I also remember her boiling water, going out to her parents’ garden to pick fresh sweet corn and then plunging the freshly picked ears into the pot the second she got back into the kitchen. Ahh, I can taste it even now, with fresh creamery butter dripping off it. And the taste of a fresh tomato from the garden versus the waxen, taste-free red spheres they dare to call tomatoes in the supermarket? Really, why do we food consumers even put up with it? Stop it! Go green, frugal and healthy all in one fell swoop. Grow your own produce.
 
Oh, but there’s that practical set of considerations: “I don’t have the time or the know-how to plant and maintain a garden.” No problem. There are people bringing back the Victory Garden idea for urbanite and suburbanite. There’s even a movement to have the First Family grow a garden on the White House lawn just like Mrs. Roosevelt did.
 
I found out about Jesse Muson, the founder of Victory Vegetable Gardens, from mutual friends. I visited his Web site www.victoryvegetablegardens.com and saw that he gives free garden assessments. He came out to our house, walked around the yard and pointed out many places to grow my favorite vegetables — mostly the ingredients for ratatouille: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and basil. 
 
No problem with the property. I am the problem, not the yard. Since I travel quite a bit, we agreed that my best solution would be finding an apartment-dweller who wants to garden but doesn’t have the land to do so. We could easily support produce for another family in our yard. Muson decided to set up garden “matches” on his Web site. I am eager to find a family new to the city that has a rural background.
 
We also belong to a listserv with Altadena neighbors who have a bounty of home-grown fruit and produce. I don’t have time to harvest — let alone consume — the bounty from 18 fruit trees in our yard. Thanks to Gail Murphy, many of us Altadenans belong to the Co-op & Food Exchange of Altadena, a Yahoo Groups email list. (Prospective members needn’t live in Altadena, and if you’re interested in joining, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/COFEaltadena. Or stay more local and start your own exchange group.)
 
Some people see the beauty of their property as a first priority, but would like produce too. John Lyons is a landscape designer who specializes in delicious aesthetics. Lyons is currently designing a garden called the Incredible Edible Maze for the 2009 LA Garden Show at the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens on the first weekend in May. (You can visit Lyons’ Web site for more information at: www.thewovengarden.com.)
 
Until we get our own garden going, we’ve joined a community-supported agriculture group or CSA. The idea is simple: order a box of local and seasonal produce to be trucked in to a central location where you pick it up. Since it’s winter, we received a box with lots of winter veggies, including various greens we had no clue about. We had to educate ourselves about chard, kale and kohlrabi, but we’re better for it. The CSAs deserve your support. Ours is http://www.scfcoop.southcentralfarmers.com/, but you can find others with a search engine. 
 
Speaking of CSAs, I highly recommend a wacky, entertaining documentary, “The Real Dirt on Farmer John.”  Farmer John was on the cutting edge of CSAs. (Visit www.angelicorganics.com for more “dirt” on Farmer John and supporting organic farming.)
 
If my late Mom could see me now! She used to drive me nuts with her Depression-era habits, shutting lights off behind me, lowering the flame on the stove and turning off water faucets. She extolled the virtues of do-it-yourself, homemade and homegrown. ARRGGGHHHH!!! A quintessential Baby Boomer, I was accustomed to plenty and thought her war on waste was witless and indeed a WASTE of our precious personal energy and time. Now that we are all in the Nouveau Depression, her values are once again relevant and necessary.
 
Let me pass on a Momism: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” she’d say. This favorite saying of Yankee homemakers, pioneer homemakers, Depression-era homemakers is now good advice again in a scary economic time for everyone — and it’s not just for homemakers anymore! 

Ms. Snortland coaches first-time nonfiction authors and teaches a writing class in Altadena. Contact her at snortland.com

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