Farmer in the Dell I am not. I have always had an affinity for fresh produce – I was a produce-buyer for a gourmet food distributor once upon a time  and my years in hotel receiving and purchasing was an education unto itself – but my growing of produce has been pretty much limited to tomatoes and fresh herbs.  We’ve just never seemed to have the right space and sunlight to do much else.

Until this year.

After the winter storms did a bit of tree-damage, we (I am using the royal we here.  Victor has actually done all of the work) moved some plants around and gained a bit more direct sunlight.  Tomatoes, four types of peppers, broccoli, and corn went into the ground.

The neighborhood critters ate the corn before it ever had a chance but the rest has flourished.  Even the broccoli, that we just found is more of a cool-climate plant. (Lots of water and partial shade helped it thrive!)

And what a difference it is over the crap you buy in the grocery store.

I’ve been on a tirade for years about seasonal produce and locally-grown foods.  I do not want to eat peaches and strawberries in January and I don’t buy peaches and strawberries in January.  I love ’em both – but at the right time of the year.  I still remember the summer fruits that came out of my grandfather’s backyard.  The strawberries and the grape arbor with the huge black grapes.  The peach tree next door at Mrs. McNamee’s.  Fresh peaches with juice running down your arm.  And the best peach pies and peach ice cream a kid could ever have.  And string beans that actually had strings that needed to come off.  And fresh peas.

I’m sure those childhood experiences – plus a mother who cooked from scratch every night – were the major influences that kept me in the food business all these years.  I watched my grandfather kill chickens and my grandmother pluck feathers.  And I remember just how wonderful that fried chicken was.

Real food – back before the agri-industrial complex took over the food supply and ruined it for everyone.  Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, but I think the agri-industrial complex has done much more harm.  I’m reading Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook right now.  It’s shocking.  But what is even more shocking is that people really don’t care.  They just want it cheap.  No matter what it is and no matter what the human or environmental cost.

I know that it is impossible to buy everything fresh, local, and organic and sometimes we do need to make decisions based upon expediency or cost.  But the majority of the foods we eat should not have barcodes on them.  And they should be made with recognizable ingredients.

So as I remember the days of watermelons with seeds (they tasted so much better) and grocery stores with fewer but infinitely better products, I head back outside to see how we (Victor) might expand the garden plot for next year.

And then head back in to cook lunch.  Sausage and  peppers and onions.

The peppers really were fantastic.  There is just so much more flavor than anything you can find at a store.  We have a couple of hot peppers out there as well.  I want to try my hand at some hot sauce this year.

And I harvested the broccoli.  That will be with dinner tonight with grilled steaks.

Simply prepared.