There were two reasons why I decided to grow my first tomatoes three years ago. I wanted to eat tomatoes that actually tasted like tomatoes and I wanted to save some money.
Since then I have realised that there are many, many more reasons to grow your own fruit and vegetables and saving money has become the least significant one as I realise that what we harvest in our garden simply cannot be bought, anywhere. By harvest I mean the harvest of psychological and physical health as well as the harvest of food.
We've discovered that gardening in general gives us a bit of exercise, fresh air, is stress relieving and develops patience, creativity and intuition. We have learnt about botany, wildlife and weather patterns while watching an ant carry a green fly up a young shoot in order to farm it, or while keeping a close eye on the sun and the clouds so as to know weather to open or shut the greenhouse windows.
But getting back to the food harvest. A good quality, tasty and fresh selection of veg is hard to beat. When it has been grown without the use of chemicals it's even harder, and it's impossible to beat the satisfaction you get when you bite into that ripe tomato that you have nurtured from seed right up to fruit. It tastes like a tomato should taste!
Actual size.....more or less.
As I counted up my tomato harvest that first year it dawned on me that had I bought my 400 tomatoes in a supermarket they would have had to have been brought home on trays and in plastic bags. They would have been illuminated with a warm, homely feeling light for a few days in the shop that was constructed just for them....and all the other food. Some of them would be thrown away. They would have been brought thousands of miles in trucks that were made just for them, taking up valuable road space. They would have been packaged and sorted in warehouses, made just for them. Some of them would have been thrown away, along with all the other waste that was produced. And when they were growing, they and the fields that they were in, would have been heavily dosed with pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers and "pretend ripening" chemicals which would quickly find their way into the food chain and water systems etc etc ad infinitum.
The tomato that you can see above is much more than a tasty cheap tomato. It was important enough to have it's portrait taken!
Over the next two years as our list of fruit and veg in the garden increased I found more reasons to keep doing it. All of our kitchen and garden waste, bar the meat, goes onto the compost heap which makes our fertiliser. Prunings from the shrubs go to the bottom of the compost heap to improve aeration. This cut our waste bill dramatically. Margarine containers, plastic bottles and even lollipop sticks are finding their way into the garden in some form or another. Less and less is being thrown out now as it becomes a resource in the garden.
Maybe the most important thing of all is that I feel in control of the food that I eat. We have chosen which varieties of each fruit or vegetable we want and we have chosen how it is to be grown. We do not have to accept low quality vegetables nor do we have to accept harmful environmental practises as a trade off for cheap food.
And the most surprising thing? We were thrilled when the magnificent heat wave that Ireland saw last summer ended as the rain finally came, creating life and a few beautiful rainbows.