Monday, September 8, 2014

Home Gardened Food Can Cure the World (?)

I have this theory.

Everyone knows that for allergy and asthma sufferers honey from local bees is said to be beneficial in treating the symptoms. In particular, those with allergies to pollen, because whatever the bees do to the pollen to make the honey allows the allergy sufferer to digest the pollen, and then, acclimate his/her body to it. The theory is that consuming honey made with pollen from trees to which one is allergic allows one's body to build up an immunity to the allergen. It's like Westley, from the Princess Bride, who consumes small amounts of Iocaine poison over a five year period to build up an immunity ... and it's also the theory behind immunizations.

I think it works even further than just honey, though, and I think consuming plants that are grown in one's area, plants that are subjected to the same daily barrage of toxins, pollutants and irritants, can be medicinal.

An article that appeared in my local paper a few years ago referenced a study that showed maple syrup to be high in antioxidants. According to the article: ... the [trees] naturally produce compounds to protect themselves, and these compounds are flowing in sap.

It stands to reason - for me, at least - that the same principle would work for other plants, and that plants, grown to maturity in a particular area, will produce antioxidants that help the plant (and its progeny ... and prey) to survive in the area where it was grown.

Maybe I'm grasping, but it does make sense.

It also supports the idea that a local diet is healthier, and it makes growing food even more appealing and important.

I live in Maine, and for four to six months of the year, we have snow on the ground, but that doesn't mean we can't grow stuff. Even without high energy inputs from heated greenhouses, we can extend our season, and if we choose plants that will thrive in our particular climate, those crops can also be stored for our long winter.

This article, written many years ago, details a few things that are particularly suited to life in the northeast.

What's pretty awesome, though, for those folks who don't live up here in winterland is that many of the crops that do well up here, thrive there - in the winter. Peas and Kale can handle a light frost, and even a bit of snow. They could be grown in places that have warm winters. With just a little protection, some lettuces and other greens (see Eliot Coleman's book The Four Season Harvest for inspiration) will provide a steady diet of high nutrient foods - many of which are perfect in cold-weather soups.

I guess the point is that many of us hail from agrarian roots, and we all seem to have it ingrained in our psyches that the time to grow is summer and the time to let the land lay fallow is winter, but I think that it's not true. Here in Maine it's true, because most things don't grow here when it's below freezing temperatures, but in other parts of the country, winter might be the best time to be out in the garden.

And it's also about choosing the right plant, because, guess what? We can grow some warm-loving perennials here, like Kiwi and figs. The key is to pick a variety that is cold hardy, and to understand that the fruit will probably be a lot smaller than the varieties that grow where it's a lot warmer for a lot longer.

My figs aren't very big, but they are completely delicious!

The idea is to just try to do something, and if you're like me, a not-gardener who has a garden, you might even surprise yourself by how much you can do ... when you try.

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