7 Things You’ll Learn Growing Your Food
Some stunning revelations have occurred in my consciousness since I started growing my food.
Things I never even considered.
You’d be amazed at what will happen if you give up groceries.
Here are my 6 Biggest Take-Away’s from Growing My Food
#1: You’ll Learn What is in Season
The day I became this food activist of sorts I became 3 things:
- One Who Eats Local Food – since I am the one growing/ harvesting my food, it is always “local” to where I am.
- One Who Eats Seasonal Food – If you are only eating what you are growing you better bet you are eating seasonally. We are all grateful for the harvest we ‘put up’ for winter, but whatever is growing in the side yard is going to be my top choice for dinner.
- One Who Eats Organic Food – I don’t use any chemicals on my gardens. If the label says I must wear long sleeves, pants, gloves and avoid contact with my face while applying the product- I probably shouldn’t be spraying it on my food.
- I also became much healthier, and a size smaller.
The seasonal was the first alarm to go off. It was spring when I began the challenge to eat only foods from this farm. The garden was filled with unimaginable amounts of greens. I thought we’d have plenty of food.
It only took 4 days after my big announcement for panic to set in, “What are we going to eat?”
We had already had spinach, asparagus, kale, radishes, and lettuce for just about every meal. I was running out of options and we had 96 days left (the original challenge was 101 days). This is when you begin to research what grows in your area and how quickly you can grow it. Which leads to a ridiculous turnip harvest and learning to cook turnips 12 different ways (they are all terrible). It also leads you to call every U-Pick farm in the state.
Eating food in season is about realizing what IS fresh, growing now and what we SHOULD eat.
A Glance at Seasonal foods (in my local region)-
In spring there’s the asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, green onions, spring greens, peas, everything in the cole crop family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi), chard, spinach, endive, potatoes, garlic, onions, turnips, radish, beets, and endless kinds of baby lettuces.
In summer, the cucumbers, peppers, squash, melons, eggplant, beans, okra, pumpkins, tomatillo, sweet potatoes, and of course the tomatoes!
Fall brings about another season to grow everything cool-hardy (see spring & repeat).
It’s not a lack of options, it is a matter of choosing to eat what is in season.
Waiting for foods to come in season means we taste them when they taste their best. It means saying “no.” It means patience. It means denying oneself immediate gratification and waiting.
I feel like we put forth an impressive amount of trouble to eat foods out of season. Just take a minute and think about how much money is spent on fuel to move a vegetable from one side of the United States to the other just so someone can eat a tomato. BECAUSE THEY WANT ONE.
Eating foods in season is an act of self-control that nourishes us better and teaches us appreciation. Additionally, I think we are not doing the tomato justice by settling for a hot-house substitution. If you have never eaten a homegrown tomato fresh off the vine, I would go as far as to say you don’t know what a tomato tastes like.
Nothing beats fresh.
Fresh also means nutrition.
We don’t even know how good fresh food is for us. Really. All the living phytochemical systems inside a vegetable that make it beautiful and flavorful also pack it with good healthy stuff.
When we settle for hot-house look-alikes or food that was grown where people are wearing bikinis when we shovel snow – we are losing.
One thing is for sure, growing my own food opened my horizons to how many foods I can grow or buy locally.
#2: You Won’t Worry About Your Weight
I never consider my weight when I eat only foods from my farm.
Grass-fed meat, fresh vegetables dusted with soil and lard from the backyard pig have a way of sculpting your body into a healthier version of you. It will fill you with nutrients, good fats and keep you lean. Plus, the work of growing and caring for the food gives purpose, fulfillment, and exercise.
I’m not new to this game. I’ve been eating from my farm for years now. It is so wonderful to be able to eat without thinking about how much I’m eating or what it is going to do to my waistline. I don’t count calories. I don’t worry about fat.
Interesting facts about Farm Fresh Food-
- There are foods that fuel and do not pack on pounds.
- There are flavors that come from herbs, not chemicals.
- There is fat that heals and does not make you fat.
- You don’t need to sacrifice food or taste to be happy in your body.
This knowledge is a gift that I am passing along to my children, especially my daughters. They know that they can eat real butter, fresh-milled flour, organic lard, and everything we grow and be healthy. They are full of life, strong and nourished.
They also know that things like Cheetos, pop tarts and canola oil are not real food and will hurt them.
I wish I held this knowledge when I was a young adult. I feel like I should apologize to my children for how I ate when I was pregnant with them, and how I fed them when they were young.
I am happy that my children are becoming young adults who know what food is. They know when foods are in season. They know how to grow food. And they know how to find a farmer (if they don’t want to be one).
#3: You’ll Miss Fruit
Let’s face it. If we only ate fruit that grows near where we live and we only at it when it was in season (or for however long we can keep it stored) we probably wouldn’t eat much fruit.
I have a friend who “gave up” sugar for a month. She wasn’t eating any of the white stuff but she was eating bananas all day long. And apples, and mangos, and grapes, and any fruit that happened to appeal to her.
Speaking from the perspective of knowing what it is like to live without sugar (including the fruit section of the nearest supermarket), I can say whole-heartedly, she cheated.
Girls and boys, I know what it is like to live without sugar. And I’m pretty sure I almost died from it. It was June. The only food I had consumed in weeks were green or meat (and eggs). I had eaten turnips mashed, roasted, boiled, sauteed, shredded, and every other way that my friends on Facebook suggested. I was weak, shaky, lethargic, headachey and downright miserable. It didn’t matter how much spinach, kale, greens, lettuce, radishes, cabbage, peas or steaks I ate, I still felt like dying. The closest thing I ate to sugar during those first weeks of the Homesteaders Food Challenge was a handful of wild blackberries I picked from the woodline. It was a bleak, dark time.
We are all addicted to sugar. Just try to give it up and watch your body revolt against you.
When you make a commitment to eat from your community or state you are going to be leaving many sweets and fruits behind.
Trust me, if you can survive the detox, you will be a better (healthier) person for it. In fact, if the sugar detox sticks you may avoid it for good. I just don’t want it like I once did. I also don’t want the addiction. I know you may not believe me, but if you can get off the sugar and stay off it for a couple of months you will not want it.
#4: You’ll Eat More Veggies
I have no idea how vegetable-deprived my body was, but I promise you that I never in my life ate as many vegetables as I did the day I began to only eat food from my farm. When rice, quinoa, risotto, pasta, and store-bought breads aren’t options for side-dishes, suddenly, you begin to pile vegetables onto your plate.
And this is a beautiful thing. Few of us are eating the recommended 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Giving up store-bought, quick sides will force healthier options onto your plate.
There are so many veggies that exist that people have never met. When you till up some soil it opens a world of foods that aren’t for sale at the supermarkets. Just check out the latest seed catalog to see how many foods you can grow.
There are over 20,000 species of vegetables in the world and we eat 20! Seriously, only 20 species of vegetables represent 90% of our food.
When you go to your local supermarket you typically find some variations of those 20 most popular foods. But there are thousands of vegetables in the world we have never even seen.
There is a sweet girl in my HSM group (High School Ministry) who lived in Equador for a month this past summer. She had a wonderful experience. She had the privilege of living with a family while she was there. This allowed her to truly live as the natives live and fully experience a different culture. She slept in their home, attended the local high school, ate what they ate and was an adopted part of that Equador family.
After she returned home she came over to my farm to tell me all about her trip. Her favorite part of the trip was her host family. She loved them. But the most notable part of the entire trip was probably the food. The food was very different from what she was accustomed to eating in the States and once home, the food from Equador was what she missed most.
Some of the foods she ate regularly in Equador:
- granadilla (sweet & delicious fruit)
- guanabana (also called soursop)
- tamarindo (sweet but tart – grows in a pod)
- tamarillo (people say this tastes like a combination of fruit flavors)
- chirimoya (sweet tropical flavor)
Here’s a brief look at what she ate on an average day in Equador:
Breakfast always included black coffee served with sugar. Her host-mom made her a hot panini style ham sandwiches on buttered bread each morning before school. In addition to the crispy, buttery sandwich there was always yogurt and fresh fruit set out.
Lunch was very light. The host mom packed lunch for the kids to take to school each day. The lunch usually included some rice, a vegetable salad and always carrots. My friend’s favorite lunch contained a tomato and corn salad and cheese. The cheese was very rich, shaped like a rectangle and the host mom always wrapped the cheese in a large tamale leaf.
The Big Meal – After school, her host family met her at the bus stop at 5:30 and they would all go out to eat. This was typically the largest meal of the day.
Dinner – Believe it or not, dinner was eaten at home around 9:30 in the evening. It was a light meal, usually, soup served with black coffee and sugar.
A couple of Interesting Observations from Equador:
- There were no chips, cookies, processed foods or junk served.
- There were no trash cans. What little garbage they produced was collected in a small bag that hung on a kitchen cabinet.
- No one wasted food. Her family always ate everything on their plates and any food left would be used to pack school lunches the next day.
- The family dogs were fed with scraps from preparing food and any extra food from the kitchen.
#5: You (may) Discover Fresh Milled Wheat
My revolution and dedication to only foods I can craft on my farm, has also devoted me to fresh milled wheat.
I hardly ever eat storebought wheat or wheat products.
I am not gluten-free. I eat all the gluten I want as long as it comes from freshly milled flour. I really don’t know why, but freshly milled flour does not cause the bloat or extra padding that I get from bagged flour.
- Maybe it’s because, since I only eat fresh made, fresh milled wheat products, I don’t eat as much bread. If you have to make the rolls yourself from scratch, you may not eat them as often.
- Maybe it’s because of the fiber. Freshly milled flour is a broom that sweeps out your insides. It cleanses you and literally removes toxins as it evacuates.
- Maybe it’s because of the vitamins. Freshly milled flour contains over 40 vitamins and minerals. It is a nutritional powerhouse. When food is this high in nutrients, it is filling and satisfying; which means less will keep you fuller longer.
- Maybe it’s because of the protein. Freshly milled flour contains the germ and bran. Unlike bagged flour that is mostly refined endosperm (the white fluffy part). Baked goods from fresh flour supply almost all the vitamins and minerals you need as well as protein. It is almost a perfect food.
#6: You’ll Fall in Love with Animal Fats
Almost all of the fats I consume are animal fats. Raw butter, home-rendered lard, beef tallow, and bacon grease are my regular go-to’s. Believe it or not, this is a good thing.
Fats from pastured animals are high in CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid – the cancer-fighting wonder fat), they contain Omega-3’s (good fat) and actually will help out your cholesterol levels.
It’s the man-made, highly processed fats and high amounts of sugar in our diets that are making us fat and killing us.
It’s no coincidence that inexpensive, hydrogenated fats (oils) are used to make almost all processed foods.
EXPERT TIP: Avoid cottonseed oil like the Devil. Cotton is not food! It’s not a nut. It’s not a vegetable. It’s not a grain. It is a shirt. It is the most genetically modified crop. It is also referred to as the “dirtiest crop” because of the high levels of hazardous pesticides used (source). Because cotton is a fabric (not a food) it is regulated as a textile crop – not food! (source)
#7: You’ll Learn how to Eat Real Food
Another take-away from my experience has been simply learning to eat real food. Even when the garden is covered in snow and there is no fresh food coming from the homestead, I know what to buy to feed my family. Until I can plant seeds in spring, I’ll be buying foods as seasonally as possible and looking for veggies that come from the land where I live.
If you would like to learn how to grow some or all of your food – you should join the site. Membership is super cheap and you’ll learn how to produce your own groceries. How to grow it, preserve it, cook it and EAT.