Everyone loves a garden, right? My father had a huge garden and after dinner we would walk out en masse for ‘adoration’ of all things leafy green and edible. Alice Waters created an empire out of gardening. The English have garden competitions. Italians are not ‘real’ Italians without some sort of garden or orto. I know I’m looking forward to getting into our orto and working. E-mails are flying as our orto-mates and I salivate over the possibilities of all that fresh produce.
But, lets back up for a moment. How many man (and woman) hours will it take to yield those tomatoes? How much water is consumed by our not very efficient watering system? What will it take to can and preserve all that cannot be eaten fresh? If you took a rational, dollars and cents approach to gardening, I’m guessing that unless you are sprouting your own seeds from last years crops, and have an auto-drip watering system from the cistern and think your time is worth nothing; its probably cheaper to buy those tomatoes.
However, if you took an emotional and even a spiritual look at the garden I think there are intangible benefits. Separating yourself from the food chain, believing that meat just comes in little plastic packages, that lettuce springs up spontaneously into plastic clam shells already triple washed and trimmed, that those red orbs in the stores in February are truly tomatoes leads to a disconnect and a disrespect for the ingredient. There is truly nothing better than eating a sun warmed _______________ (fill in the blank) tomato, fig, strawberry, apricot. To be a child and to see what sprouts from those tiny seeds is magic.
I’m not a psychologist, but the spiritual reward for tending the earth, for growing things and eating with respect must surely count for something. And in these very unsettled times, the reassurance of seeing fresh growth cannot be underestimated. Perhaps that was an unintended benefit of the Victory Gardens during WW II, the garden became a little symbol of hope and a refuge for normalcy.
Sometimes its not just about dollars and sense (pun intended) it’s about the sum of all the parts.