As Local As It Gets
With summer has come a lot more time outside and less spent on the computer blogging or organizing and editing my photo archive. I am certain as the seasons turn I will return to the screen again to find a treasure trove of great content posted by all of those I follow. Until then I will be in the garden, at the diamonds, fields, and swimming pools watching the kids, or riding my bike around town and along the riverside trails. I will drop the occasional post when the mood strikes (like today) and both my photo series Backyard Beautiful and Queens of the Diamond will continue to update.
When you live in the Great White North summer is fleeting and the growing season too short to maintain a year-round garden. Most of the fresh food we consume comes from far-off places like California, Mexico, and South America. Of course, the war in Russia and government pandemic spending practices have sent fuel prices sky high and driven inflation upwards at a pace not seen in decades. The cost of food has not been immune to these upward pressures and is becoming unaffordable for many around the world.
I try to shop local when fresh produce is in season both for immediate enjoyment and to freeze, ferment, and can for use throughout the long winter. With the largest year-round Farmers’ Markets in Canada just up the street in St. Jacobs, Ontario, you would think these products would be affordably priced without all the storage and transportation costs associated with imported food but they never are. Many local farmers cannot achieve the same economies of scale as the global agricultural conglomerates and for many, it’s life and death every year just to keep the family farm afloat.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of successful local growers who understand the boutique nature of their products and charge accordingly. I do not begrudge them because I understand they all have the same problems I have with my small garden and even at a premium, organic produce grown close to home and left ‘on the vine’ to ripen naturally is just plain better.
Admittedly nothing is more satisfying than the foods I harvest from my own garden. They are as local as it gets. My garden is not big. Many of the foods I grow will yield portions for three or four meals at most. I suspect if I had more space I’d grow more but I can only do with what I have. It is a labour of love and the meals that include my own produce are the most rewarding.
This year has been particularly trying, we are in a new home that skirts the boundary between urban and rural life and the wildlife has been devastating to the garden. Who knew squirrels, chipmunks, and moles could be such little bleep, bleep, blippity, bleeps. So far I have relocated upwards of two dozen rodents via humane traps, relocating them up to 32 kilometers (20 miles) away to prevent them from finding their way back. Still, I have planted my peas three times and haven’t harvested a single cucumber or zucchini yet. Most of them are plucked as a flower or as a small immature vegetable.
The zucchini has been the most infuriating. The plant flowers and forms into an immature zucchini about five centimeters (two and a half inches) in length only to be ransacked by some creature that manages to elude my traps and motion-sensing cameras. The damned thing will only eat the remnants of the flower and a barely noticeable portion of the flower end of the immature zucchini. Once that tip has been nibbled the vegetable’s growth is stunted forever. It will never reach its full potential, never end up grilled on my dinner plate or grated in my favorite zucchini cheese loaf. So frustrating to be able to see the potential but never be ready to harvest!
Despite those failures, there are garden success stories too. Earlier today the green beans pictured at the top of this post became the first harvested from the garden this year. The plants still have enough small beans and new flowers to ensure at least three or maybe four more harvests over the next few weeks.
The radishes have already been harvested and the greens and roots that were not eaten fresh have been frozen or pickled. I learned two things about radishes this year. First, the greens are edible like spinach, chard, or collards. I pan-fried them with olive oil, fresh garlic, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of dried crushed chilies. Second, pickled radishes are an amazing addition to grilled steak sandwiches. With a short growing cycle (approx 28 days) I will plant a second crop towards the end of summer when the cooler weather begins to settle in.
The tomatoes are plentiful even though they are smaller than normal. They have been coming on slowly in one of the worst drought seasons I can remember. The carrot tops have grown lush and the plants have turned their energy to growing those sweet orange roots below the soil line. The jalapeños have their own fiery defence mechanism to ward off any pesky rodent that attempts a daring heist and with every plant sporting as many peppers as the plant in the picture above, I expect to pickle down a bumper crop this year.
In containers in another corner of the yard the basil, oregano, thyme, chives, and parsley are going like gangbusters. Having them available to snip as needed gives meals that added punch only fresh herbs can provide.
Next year the garden will be enclosed with some form of fencing, probably a fine chicken wire in combination with other methods of warding off small vermin but this year I will have to settle for whatever yield I can get. The beans are a nice start.
Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying their summer or winter or whatever season it is in your neck of the woods. I wish everyone all the best. See you in full force again in the fall.
Images were captured in July 2022 in my backyard in Waterloo Region, Ontario.
(except St. Jacobs Farmers Market – Source: Bing Images | Photographer: Unknown.)
Equipment: Pixel 3 XL Rear Camera, various settings.
Additional processing via Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop.
Copyright 2022 Greg Glazebrook, All Rights Reserved.