Despite what food and travel magazines and the New York Times would have you believe, upstate NY is a hive of farming. Of course there are now trendy Bed & Breakfast spots and boutiques, funky restaurants and charcuterie programs, and all the “farm to table” sound bites you can stand, but that was NOT always the case. There was ALWAYS farming and people feeding themselves off the land. I know. I grew up there. And I can promise you it wasn’t cool or trendy when I lived there.
I grew up in the Hudson River Valley (I could walk to the river from my house) on 20 acres and we grew food, not as a business, but to feed ourselves. As a kid I hated it. The planting and weeding and picking were a pain in the ass when what you really wanted to do was climb a tree, or go into town. We grew tomatoes, strawberries, zucchini (didn’t everyone?), pumpkins, string beans and we even had grape vines. We’d go to neighboring farms and “pick your own” cherries and of course we’d snitch apples from the orchard that bordered our property. I learned a LOT and took that knowledge with me when I married into the military.
The Air Force moved us quite a bit and with the exception of John’s med school years and our stint in Madrid, I have always had a garden. I have ALWAYS grown something to eat. Why would I as an adult, lovingly embrace something I despised as a youth? Who the hell knows? I guess if I am truthful, I enjoyed watching things grow as a kid, but I hated doing the work. Now I enjoy BOTH. When Jack was small, I wanted him to see food grow, so I planted fun stuff like watermelons so he could see the rapid changes. Now it is second nature for him to hear, “Here, take these shears and go cut me some lemongrass please.”
No matter where you live and what size home or yard you have there is something you can grow. Herbs, tomatoes and peppers work great in pots even if you have just an apartment balcony. Check out THIS piece to learn more and get started! I really like this article because it addresses all of the possible growing options – containers, raised beds and plots. And for those of us lucky enough to have a plot there is info on “companion plants” to increase yield.
If you are nervous, start with herbs. They are relatively easy to grow and they keep insects away, but heed this piece of advice: Mint is a fucking weed. If you plant it in the ground, it will creep into every corner of your space. Trust me, I am speaking from experience. I pull mint out of my garden DAILY! Keep mint in a pot.
I have what I call My Hippy Dippy Garden. Nothing is in straight lines and there is a fig tree in the middle of it (that’s it on the right of the pic above) . Things are planted with wild abandon and I let a several things reseed themselves. My leeks and cilantro/coriander are all wild at this point (you did know that coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant, right?). And no, not everything grows for me. I can’t seem to get turmeric or ginger to grow here even though I had no problem with ginger in Texas. Because I live in the desert, I don’t like to water things I can’t eat, so I put flowers in pots in my Hippy Dippy Garden and they get watered by the irrigation system while the stuff I do eat is getting watered. Right now in the garden I have green onions, leeks, lemongrass, tomatoes, spicy peppers, and several different kinds of herbs. Soon I’ll be adding lettuces and celery and in the fall kale gets planted.