Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Energy

As it's a circular story, I'm not exactly sure where it begins. But I'll try to tell it sensibly.

Dean came home last week from school very excited about the lettuce he'd eaten in the school's garden. We've got an ambitious and so far very successful edible schoolyard kind of project going, with children spending time in all aspects of gardening -- including the pleasurable experience of plucking a taste of something from right in front of you that you helped to grow. "I'd like to eat more lettuce like that!" YES! A win for the edible schoolyard!

So I take a look out in the gardens to see exactly what kind of lettuce it was that he loved, and promised to get the closest thing on my next trip to the store. A nice, soft, buttery, open-headed green lettuce. It's too early here to find (at the local supermarket, anyway) the open bins of mache so this overly packaged head had to do. Wasn't until I got home and looked more closely that I saw this lovely thing came all the way from Canada, where I imagine all the energy it took to grow this precious, hydroponic head, given that they are farther from their last frost date than we are. I'd been seduced, as I was meant to be, by all that "no herbicides nor fungicides" business, and by the desire to bring home what my boy wanted.

The irony here (circular) is that before Dean was born, I would have been able to go out to our own garden yesterday and harvest a small salad of tender new leaves. Ken and I were avid vegetable gardeners and used our fenced-in garden to grow all kinds of wonderful fresh vegetables. But we quickly found that gardening like that was one of the things that had to go in order to have time to be parents. That garden is now Dean's own flower garden, although maybe someday he'll change his "no vegetables need apply" stance to what he grows there. Anyway. If Dean weren't here I'd easily be able to give him what he was asking for, but he is here so I can't. And yes, we'd much rather have Dean than the garden.

OK, so I served up this precious Canadian lettuce and starting thinking about the whole 'eat local' thing again. We saw a snip of a report recently that said a recent study of tomatoes in London revealed that it took significantly LESS energy for Londoners to get tomatoes from Spain than from England because of all the energy it takes to grow tomatoes in the colder, rainy-er climate. Spain's the right place for the job, and shipping takes less energy. Take that, locavores! And I'm plugging away at Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (on page 75 after having started in February, which I find both funny and tragic) and I'm getting a little irritated at the author's inability to accept or embrace the ironies in all this. She kinda just lost my support, actually, in the current section where she defends tobacco farming (she says the plant is cancerous because of how it is altered and abused postfarmer -- is that true? -- is it benign as grown?) because she grew up in the tobacco belt and likes small tobacco farms for a host of reasons. I'd rather hear her struggles with the reality of knowing, loving tobacco farmers and understanding the local economics of the crop against the reality of the final product, and I'd rather not hear her question the morality of someone who serves a raspberry out of season. There are a lot of questions and I believe that right now the point is the struggle to answer them and not draw a hard line between who is good and who is evil.

We're back to the local season, or the start of it. I'm looking forward to the opening of the farmers' markets. I'm delighted to have a boy who likes lettuce. So maybe we'll try a porch pot approach and see where that gets us....

3 comments:

Quilt Pixie said...

being one of the Canadians still experiencing frost each night, I'm very thankful my diet is not restricted to what can be grown locally. When appropriate I buy local, however, never having fresh fruit or veggies except when in season, would make meals much less fun/pleasant for much of the year...

Helen Conway said...

I too struggle with this whole buy local thing. For example, say I don't buy a fruit flown in from Kenya but eat something here in season instead. What are the farmers in Kenya supposed to live on if we take their livelihood away from them?

Felicia said...

I couldn't really get through that book either. I kept picking it up and putting it down. Eating local or imports is such a complex issue!

Wouldn't it be groovy if vegetables did apply to the garden? :)