(The photo above is a shot of basil picked from my herb garden and tomatoes from the janky bush from last year that I potted up this year when it finally decided to start fruiting a month or two ago. These ingredients were crafted into a simple caprese with some mozerella, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.)
While there are many reasons that I give for growing my own food, the most important one is often the one I fail to mention the most. Yes, I grow for health reasons, to eat organically, to live more sustainably, to vote with my dollar, and so on. But the bigger reason? It just tastes better! Something happens between the farm, the farmer’s market, and the table. When you take out the middle man, you take out the chance of your fruits and vegetables losing flavor and getting dehydrated. When they’re in your own backyard or on your own patio, you’re able to monitor where each individual piece of produce is at, and pick it at the peak of its ripeness. And when you grow them yourself, you have more control over what you are eating; not only the flavor or the fact that it’s organic, but also the chance to grow more flavorful things that may not ship well (or seem interesting or viable enough to be raised in mass quantities.)
Perhaps this is where extreme foodies come into play. Whether one’s a chef or consumer, there’s no doubt that the best, freshest ingredients are the most sought after and important components to a meal. It is a natural course of action then, that in order to stay in the lead, you simply must create it.
And what better way to do that than by harvesting produce steps away from where you will be preparing it later?
I’ve often joked that gardening is a competitive sport, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that in some ways, it definitely is. Going early to the farmer’s market and being first in line and buying whatever is “seasonal” is great, but anyone else who has access to that will always be just as great as you. In order to stand out, you must care for, nurture, and love your food while it matures, and at harvest, honor and respect it in your preparations.
Then, and only then, have you truly won, and your reward will be in flavors, even greater than you could’ve ever imagined. Trust me, even with the simplest of ingredients, like basil or tomatoes, it’s well worth it. 🙂