Wednesday, September 7, 2011

From Farm to Plate

We've already talked about Pushpi Bagchi and her book which aims at getting kids to think about the food they eat. Pushpi agreed to write a guest post for us on a topic related to her book and this post tells you how to create edible gardens.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we seem to be growing apart from our food!

Convenience foods and full time cooks have made their way into our kitchens and we’ve forgotten the story of our food and very few children seem to be aware of where their food comes from. While doing research for my graduation project while in Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, I had one parent tell me her 4 year son was shocked when he’d visited a farm and saw potatoes growing in the ground- in the mud. His reality was that fruits and vegetables came from supermarkets- the end! I heard another story of someone’s nephew who thought our everyday milk in tetra packs were factory made. He was quite appalled when he found out that milk actually comes from cows or buffaloes... he did his best to set the record straight for anyone else who might have been disillusioned like him. Why is it that we are becoming so estranged from our food when it impacts us and the world around us on an everyday basis?

If we lose touch with our food we also forget how precious it is, and how much time and effort is put into putting together one meal. If we know and understand the story of our food, from farm to plate, we will actually appreciate the true value of what we are eating.

So, let’s start at the beginning. Everything we eat was first grown somewhere by someone.
“Knowing how foods grow is to know how and when to look for them; such expertise is useful for certain kinds of people, namely, the ones who eat, no matter where they live or grocery shop.” - -Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara King Solver
Attempting to grow vegetable gardens in urban spaces would be quite a challenge, especially for those of us living in apartments. But there is a solution- balcony gardens. My family has had thriving balcony gardens since forever and not only do they make fantastic “green” spaces, they are not as high maintenance as back yard gardens. To experience and appreciate the simple joys of growing food, one can start with herb gardens. The best part about growing a herb garden is that to start off, you don’t even need to buy seeds, you’ll most probably have the basics in your spice cabinet. Coriander seeds, methi (or fenugreek), and dried red chill are staples in most Indian households. All you need are some small containers (cookie or jam tins?), some good quality soil, and a sunny spot put on your balcony or even a window sill. For details on how to grow a herb garden you can take a look at my edible garden guide book here:

I can say from experience that most children love gardening- I think it has something to do with feeling the soft, cool, squishy soil between your fingers. And don’t forget the rewards, having dal or biriyani dressed with coriander you growing in your own home is fantastic!

Next on our food story- hunting and gathering.

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