Learning Where Our Food Comes From: Enjoying Local Produce at the Strawberry Patch
New Series: Learning Where Our Food Comes From
This is the first part of a new series I’m starting. In my effort to eat inexpensive, healthy, and local food, I have learned a few skills over the past year, including how to process and clean a deer (!) and fillet fish. I’m going to talk about some of that stuff (and other less gruesome things, I promise!) over the next few weeks. I’m not planning on going over to South America to find out where bananas are grown (unless someone wants to pay for me to go over there!), but I will tell you some of the things I’ve done to lower my food budget and eat more locally. I’ll share some resources I’ve come across and recommend some books and movies to read to challenge your thinking. I’m looking forward to it! Let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like for me to cover in this series.
Why Talk about Where Food Comes From?
While on holiday last summer I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and it really made me think differently about the food I was eating. What food is in season? Where is it coming from? It’s also a part of the inspiration behind me starting my own garden this year. One other point that stuck with me was: Do our children even know how food is grown and what it looks like while it is growing? For that matter, do I even know what food looks like while it is growing? Surprisingly to me, I don’t know what a lot of basic things look like while they are growing. Kingsolver made the point in her book that our food chain is so industrialized these days that a lot of children don’t know how a carrot is grown or what that looks like.
My husband and I spoke about this and decided we want our kiddos to know how things grow. We frequently will talk about our food with them and then go “google” what a blueberry bush or a pepper plant looks like and we’ll all learn what it looks like and how it grows. (And now, we can just step into the garden!) We eat lots of venison and my daughter talks about how Daddy hunted the deer and now we are eating it. Same thing with the fish–papa and nonna caught the fish in Florida where we visited and mommy cleaned it. We also talk about how, ultimately, God gave us the food we are eating.
By talking about where food comes from, I’m encouraging my children and myself to eat healthily. Its easy to explain where a carrot comes from. Not as easy to explain where MSG or high fructose corn syrup comes from. I hope I’m also instilling in them a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the earth and their bodies. What goes into the earth, goes into our food, and thus goes into our bodies. And honestly, I just like doing it! I find it fascinating and the industrialization of food in America is a subject I could talk a lot about. (Just a warning: don’t ever bring it up in conversation with me unless you are really sure you want to talk about it!) :)
Local Produce: Strawberry Season
In our efforts to show our kiddos how food grows and where it comes from (and to try to save some money on food in the process), I’ve been looking into local produce in my area. (Southern Georgia) There were a few pick your own strawberry patches around, so one cloudy morning my mother-in-law and I took the two kids to the strawberry patch.
Some important lessons learned for the kiddos:
What a ripe strawberry looks like. You don’t want to pick the white ones, or even the pink ones. They have to be completely red. Most surprisinly to me was that my two year old son (who is not very verbal) understood this. They both did great at finding and picking ripe strawberries.
What a strawberry plant looks like.
How a ripe strawberry tastes right off the vine. Delicious!
Not only is local in season produce advantageous as a learning experience for kiddos (and myself!), it is a great time to stock up for future eating since this’ll be the time that strawberries are the least expensive. We managed to pick 13 pound of strawberries in about a half hour. We ate quite a bit and the rest I froze for use later. I hope next year I can freeze even more!
Resources for How to Preserve Strawberries
Last Minute Strawberry Jam from Kitchen Simplicity
Four Simple Methods for Freezing Strawberries from Simple Organic
Strawberries: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy from University of California
Homemade Frozen Fruit “Ice Cream” from Live Renewed — I’ll definitely be trying this later this summer!