I remember not too long ago picking little red strawberries with my mother in our garden. They were rich, red and dense but so tiny, barely the size of a quarter. We would take them inside and they would be appreciated like all things of quality not in great abundance. Simple strawberries—they needed no explanation.
Now I buy them from the local supermarket at times when they are out of season at the farmers market. These are the size of little apples and my daughter has no idea that they are abnormal. “Look how big this one is mommy!” she will say to me with delight. It is larger than her small hand. In truth, they look and taste like strawberries, they are red but not rich, having only the vestige of taste—the memory of what a strawberry once was.
We eat them, but I remember what a real strawberry tastes like. It is the slow slipping of character and quality that I miss. So many items of convenience are lacking depth today. We must choose to take a little more time and really enjoy our food, not only for its flavor but for its origin as well.
My daughter and I planted our own little strawberries in the garden today. These little starts began as heirloom seeds in our house a few weeks ago. We made holes in the soil and dropped the seeds in, checking on them daily to document their progress.
Under the beautiful heat of the spring sun we dug holes in the black dirt and nestled in our tiny plant starts. My daughter patted them down and skipped away to get the watering can, which came back banging against her legs, splashing water on her dress. “It’s OK, Mommy,” she said, “Don’t you see how strong I am? I can get it by myself.”
I smiled at her and chuckled, “Of course you can. Great job,” I said.
Learning As She Digs
We talked as we worked. At nearly five years old, science is one of my daughter’s favorite topics. We talked about photosynthesis, how our little strawberries will get their food from the sunshine and how that will eventually allow these tiny green plants to grow delicious food for us.
Everything we do is an opportunity to learn. The worms that she catches and puts in the garden have a job to do, and she loves being a part of it all. Our children crave to be a part of this world and to carve out their part in it. Getting them involved in the process of producing their food from a young age is imperative to the future of our planet. I have seen a resurgence of this over the last couple of years and nothing could make me happier. Our food, something that may seem so simple we take it for granted, shapes our entire country.
From community gardens to rooftop beds at restaurants, we are growing more of our own. I recently visited a local community program that had an incubator set up with chicks for the summer camp kids to raise and collect eggs. That same program has installed a huge garden for the kids to plant, work in and harvest.
Everyone has room for a garden, be it in a yard or a planter in an apartment. We need to get our food back—real food with real ingredients, where washing fruit is an option to get the dirt off, not a necessity to remove pesticides.
Every year our garden has gotten a little bigger. Every year we plant more and more. I have learned to can and preserve what we have in excess to save for the winter. We go in with our neighbors on local meat whenever possible and enjoy knowing exactly where our food comes from and how it was raised or handled. I wonder why this has become such a moment and believe it is really as simple as this: We crave a simpler world where a strawberry is simply a strawberry and nothing else.
This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.