Monday, January 11, 2010

Where Food Comes From

I grew up in the country on a ranch, riding horses and branding cattle. My husband is city-raised. We have such fun camping with his family. I take my field book and gather edible fruits and leaves on nature hikes. Then I incorporate these dandelion greens, wild onions, raspberries, etc. into our meals. My brother-in-law, (who happens to be from San Francisco, CA) watched as I stirred some berries into melted marshmallows for a pancake topping. He asked inquisitively, "is it safe to eat those?" I needed clarification, "you mean, raspberries?" "Yes, is it okay to eat them out of the wild?" Assuming that his objection was cleanliness, I assured him, "I rinsed them off." But he was not yet convinced. I gave him a good look at them so he could see that the berries look identical to the ones he has eaten a thousand times from a plastic carton sold at a grocery store. Whether he ate them or not, I did not think to observe.
In our little city yard, we often plant a few tomatoes, radishes, sometimes melons or cucumbers. My husband likes this and eats home grown vegetables with glee. While in the garden, I often pick edible weeds like purslane and mix them into salads. My husband hates when I sneak this into his food. He didn’t plant it, it voluntarily grew in the garden, and is therefore unwelcome and not fit for consumption in his view. Unbeknownst to him, he has eaten many nutritious "weeds."
How is it that the same crop cultivated and sold in markets in Europe is spurned as a useless weed elsewhere? How regrettable that people go hungry when there are edible plants everywhere! If they grew from the ground wrapped in cellophane, we might trust it for food. If we pay money for it, then and only then, is it assigned any value.
I have often thought to wild-harvest some bushels of weeds and sell them at the farmer’s market as exotic produce!
Perhaps disconnecting with the truth of where food comes from has some bearing on why so few people pray over their meals these days. "And God went on to say: ‘Here I have given to you all vegetation bearing seed which is on the surface of the whole earth and every tree on which there is the fruit of a tree bearing seed. To you let it serve as food’" (Genesis 1:29).

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