Let’s talk about gardening!
While my blog is mainly about cooking and baking, I will most definitely be talking about gardening throughout the year because it, too, is also one of my biggest passions. I’ve been waiting a long time to finally write about gardening. The weather is so wonderful today; not too cold, not too warm, sunny, and a nice cool breeze, I thought it would be the perfect day to talk about gardening. I love, love, love everything about gardening. Now, granted, I really only started gardening last year because we finally bought our first house, but I have learned a lot from my experience and from all the research I do over the fall and winter seasons. I can remember, ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted a garden of my own. Farming “runs in my family”, so to speak. On my mom’s side of the family (the Korean side) my grandparents both farmed and I had a great-uncle that farmed tobacco. I’m so grateful for our home and I love the history and charm of our 75 year old house, but I often tell my husband a little jokingly, mostly seriously that if a farm ever became available for us I would sell our house in a split second. I’ve always wanted to live on a farm with cows, pigs, horses, goats, chickens, the whole nine yards, but for now gardening will satisfy me :).
For me, gardening is a very humbling experience. It reminds me that we are only the workers, we plant and care for and harvest the garden, but God is the one who gives life. Last year, I planted basil. Have you ever seen a basil seed? It’s so tiny. To myself I thought, “There’s no way this tiny, single seed is going to produce a basil plant.” So instead of planting just one seed per 2 inches, I planted all of the seeds from the seed packet in the row and I was humbled. I had so much basil last year my freezer was packed with ziplock bags full and I still had so much I had to give it away. Even to the tiniest seed, God gives life. It’s humbling to watch one tiny seed grow and produce a plant that will feed you, not just once, but many times over.
As a first time gardener last year, I did a lot of research on seeds and planting. I came across three different varieties of seeds: heirloom, hybrid, and genetically modified. Let’s talk about the worst of the three first, GMOs (which I will refer to as GM- genetically engineered or GMO- genetically modified organism). As I sat down and did my research on GMOs (I always research anything before I buy it) I was horrified by the things I was reading. It wasn’t just one person or one website that I was getting my information from, there were several articles and websites that all agreed and came to the same conclusion as I did: they’re horrible, disgusting, nasty “creatures”, because they’re no longer the vegetables that God intended them to be. I have had a couple people ask me, “Are GMOs really all that bad?” After I stare at them dumb-founded, with a fantasy of wanting to smack them (which I would never, ever do) I always go into a quick lesson on GMOs. ( Just a thought, but if God wanted food to taste better and be bigger and glow in the dark, don’t you think He would have made them that way? I don’t know about you, but I think when ever we try to mess around with God’s grand design is when we get ourselves into trouble the most.) GMOs aren’t anything new. For the last 20 years, since introducing the Flavr Savr Tomato, they have been a controversy. When something is labeled “Genetically Modified” it is referring to the manipulation of the DNA, by man, that changes the essential makeup of plants and animals. Scientists take genetic material from one source, be it animal or another plant and in some cases bacteria and viruses, to give an existing plant or animal a new quality such as bug resistance, ability to produce their own pesticide, ability to withstand weedkiller, more meat, bigger eggs, etc. Is it just me or have you noticed the size of chicken breasts lately? They are ginormous! In the last several years there has been a growing amount of evidence that connects GMOs with many health problems and in some cases death. For myself, that does not sound like anything I want myself or my family to eat. Right now, in our grocery stores, more than 80% of our processed foods and most of our sweet corn are GM and there’s very little we can do about it. Why? Because our government has protected the making of GMOs. We can push to get non-GMO foods labeled, but other than that there’s very little we can do at this time. I won’t spend too much time on discussing GMOs. I highly encourage you to do your own research to further educate yourselves and become more aware of the foods you and your family are eating.
Hybrid seeds. I’m not totally against hybrid seeds, but I’m not a fan of them and I will never buy them. I like my food the way it was intended. Don’t get me wrong, hybrid seeds are not GM, but they’re not natural. Take carrots, for example. All of our carrots at the grocery stores are orange, but did you know that carrots used to naturally come in four other colors besides orange? They come in orange, red, purple, yellow, and white. Really. Then why do they only come in orange at the store? Because they have been bred that way. For many, many years farmers and gardeners have been creating new varieties of crops for things like withstanding drought and disease resistance by cross-pollinating two related plants. This process normally took anywhere from 6 to 10 plant generations to achieve. In the mid- 1800s, Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel discovered a way to speed up the process to create desired traits within just one generation. This process produces seeds that are known as F1 hybrid seeds. There’s one big problem with this for me. I like to save my seeds for next year’s planting so that I’m not constantly buying seeds year after year. Second generation hybrid seeds do not reproduce the same as the parent hybrid plant. So if you liked the taste, size and color of the parent hybrid plant, the second generation plant will not taste, look, or be as big as the parent plant. You can probably imagine that seed companies love hybrid seed because it keeps you dependent on buying new seeds year after year. With the cost of seeds going up every year, it can get really expensive fast if you’re having to buy your seeds every year.
Now, I’ve saved the best for last, Heirloom seeds. I love heirloom seeds and I recommend them to everyone interested in gardening. They’re called heirlooms because they’re seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation. Here’s a link to 6 advantages of heirloom seeds and vegetables. The only disadvantage that I’ve had since planting and growing heirloom vegetables is getting this look from people where I feel like a new-age hippie. I’m not a hippie, but I do care more, now, about what I eat and protecting my family from GMOs so we can live long and healthy lives. I like the history that comes with some of the seeds, the taste, the look, and the diversity of heirloom seeds and plants. I used carrots earlier as example for hybrid vegetables. Let me now talk about them as heirloom vegetables. Last year, when I planted my carrots I got purple, yellow, and white. I didn’t get a single orange carrot.
I was a little hesitant eating the carrots, but I was amazed at the difference in taste and quality. They tasted amazing. I think the white carrots were my favorite. They were a little spicy, but very sweet. Each different color of carrot had it’s own distinct taste. Rainbow carrots were very common in the middle ages, but it’s sad that you no longer see them anymore. The same goes for all vegetables and plants. There are so many varieties of tomatoes, watermelon, apples, peppers, etc. Growing heirloom vegetables was a fun experience for my family and I, because you never knew exactly what you were getting as far as taste and variety. Can you imagine growing the exact, same type of lettuce or cucumber that Thomas Jefferson grew in his own garden or eating a tomato variety that is originally from 1800s Russia? Heirloom seeds have added to my love of gardening and has opened my eyes even more to how wonderful our God truly is. I have been ordering and will continue to order my seeds from rareseeds.com. They have over 1600 heirloom varieties and exotic fruits and vegetables from around the world. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed. 😉
I may not be an expert gardener, but I do look forward to sharing my experiences with you this year. I encourage all of you to do your own research, you may learn something new. 🙂 Until next time…