A New Year in Food

I’ve never been a big fan of the New Year’s resolution. I’m not against it in principle, it just often lacks intention and an implementation plan. “This year I will garden more,” she declares, coffee in hand, one late morning in early January, about forty-eight hours before her day job resumes. Okay, great. But how will that happen, exactly? And what is the motivation behind it?

This year I’m going to get a little more specific with my goals, and at the same time leave some room for interpretation in the execution. What do I mean? Let’s make this discussion a concrete one and consider my three food goals for this year.

C'mon leeks, grow already.

Goal 1: Grow more food.

The motivation for this goal is that I want to increase my food security, learn more about agriculture, become more attuned to food seasons, and increase the food productivity of urban land. The motivations sound pretty lofty, but the goal itself is very down to earth.

I plan to grow more food by doing any or all of the following: start planting earlier in the year (it was July last year when things got underway); expand the garden (find another garden plot or sunny spaces where I can sneak in a few veggie plants); plant more productive varieties for this climate. Growing food without land ownership can be tricky, and a larger garden equals more work, so I need flexibility in how I meet this goal.

Cukes, welcome to the garden.

Goal 2: Can something I’ve grown.

Last year I discovered canning in a big way. Everything I canned, though, was purchased from the Farmers’ Market. This will largely be the way of things this year, except that I will strive to grow enough of something that it can be preserved as jam, pickle, conserve, chutney, or sauce. Call it my desire to taste a bit of homestead living in the middle of the city—to be self-sufficient in something, anything, even if it is only six half-pint jars of bread-and-butter pickles.

The plan for this is easy, made possible by goal number one. I will grow more of one or two things (tomatoes? cukes? beans?), choosing the specific fruit or vegetable based on what I want to add to my pantry and what plants can be expected to yield enough produce to make canning it worthwhile. I look forward to a good, long study of the seed catalogue that just arrived yesterday morning.

Goal 3: Forage for food in the city.

This goal represents a new food experience for me. This isn’t foraging in the sense of gathering from the wild (mushrooms and asparagus hold no appeal for me), but rather harvesting the food grown—almost inadvertently grown—in public areas. Mostly this takes the form of fruit trees grown as street trees. I want to encourage edible landscaping in the city, and I also hate to see food go to waste.

The next time I walk under a plum tree dropping its fruit on the boulevard to rot, I pledge to record the location of the tree and come back to harvest some plums. If the tree is on private property, I may contact the owner and suggest a fruit share in exchange for picking. (This endeavour is currently limited by the lack of a ladder, but there’s about seven months to sort out such logistics.) Isn’t there an apple tree somewhere on 7th? A plum tree on Yew? Does anyone know of pears or cherries?

It sounds like there’s plenty to do this year, but also plenty to eat and enjoy. Note to self: idealism aside, it’s just food. Perfection is irrelevant here. Do what you can, just make it yummy.

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