Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Food We Eat, the Food We Grow

Summer is here and the heat is setting in. These hot days keep us present in our bodies and in our lives even as they seem to lengthen time as we walk through our days. In reality they are gone all too quickly.

Outside, our garden of tomatoes, cucumbers, two different beans, as well as herbs and flowers is growing. We do a lot with the little bit of yard that we have and are grateful to the landlord who encourages our use of it. There is something about the action of waking, going out to put my hands in dirt, weed and water that prepares me better to greet the rest of the day. I am caretaking this land and nurturing these plants so they will grow food for my home and my body.

Growing up, we didn’t always have a lot of money, but we ate better and healthier than I did on my own in college. I grew up on fresh farm meat, and my mother grew the same vegetables along the side of our small lot home as I do at my apartment now. We always had real tomato sauce for pasta, homemade applesauce and jam. I was very blessed.

Somewhere, I took it for granted and lost the connection to what I put in my body while I sat in my ignorance of all-things-kitchen and the ever popular "I can't do that."

I couldn’t help but realize, in the midst of my genealogical research, how quickly our lives move now as compared to the centuries of generations before. Just four generations ago, all of my people were farmers or farm laborers, dependent on having a relationship with the earth that many urbanites can’t imagine. But I can. In that realization, I remembered that I could imagine it and that I had known it.

It’s in our blood.

Five years ago I didn’t believe I could cultivate vegetables in our brick-fill apartment lot. My idea of gardening was putting seed in the earth and leaving it alone to see if nature would win out without my interference. I preferred sitting in the ‘me’ that was known for killing cactuses, and using as a shield for why I couldn’t be a gardener.

One day what I heard was me saying I can’t grow things, can’t give life to something else. I was mortified to realize that I what I was manifesting was I am not a nurturer and cannot be one. Gardening became a healing balm for my spirit as well as one for my body.

Fresh food tastes better to my body and makes me feel better in it. When first out on my own, I was used to going to eat something frozen or fast food to ease the hunger that never seemed to be sated or satisfied. My body always felt like it was yelling at me for something it wanted in a language that I couldn’t quite understand.

I get it now. It’s the difference between buying a waxed apple from the grocery store that’s been refrigerated for months until it crossed the country versus picking one fresh off a tree and biting into it. If you’ve never plucked an apple from a tree, you don’t know what an apple really tastes like. If you’ve never fed your body fresh food full of vitamins and nutrients, your body doesn’t know how much it needs and wants it.

I live in a small city were we grow our own vegetables along the front of our house to help sustain us through the summer and early fall and ease our pocketbooks. We are doubly blessed to have two different farmer’s markets near our home, as well as plenty of local farms with u-pick services within a twenty minute drive.

It connects me to my ancestors, those who founded cities and first broke farmland, when I go out into my front yard and pluck ripe vegetables from the stem, pile them in my skirt and bring them inside to wash and prepping them for meals. It helps me understand why the kitchen is the hearth of the home, the heat in the winter months and the spice in the summertime, with all the love that goes into growing, nurturing and preparing sustenance for our families with our hands, our sweat and our energy.

Starting Small
You can start as simply as purchasing a tomato plant from Lowes or Home Depot, or a greenhouse or nursery near you, and put it in a large pot. You’ll need one of those little metal cages as well- when the tomatoes begin to grow the plant gets heavy. What I have learned is that they need water to grow and then, once your plant is full of green tomatoes, they require sunlight to turn yellow, orange or red so find it a sunny spot on your patio or stoop. When the fruit is ripe, it will pull easily from its stem with a gentle, but firm, tug. And, something else I learned, is that green tomatoes left in a windowsill, will ripen in the sunlight.

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