Our evolution from nomadic people, following animals, in small hunter-gatherer communities, towards settled, domesticated and much more complex agrarian societies, has caused a massive shift in our psychology. In the post-industrial age where we have become more and more divorced from the fundamental necessities of living, and we tend to experience much of the world vicariously through the TV, radio or Internet, it is fascinating that the ‘hobby’ of growing your own vegetables has experienced a bit of a resurgence.
Once you’ve tried it, and have been bitten by the bug it will become obvious why it is so popular. It appeals to all of the senses and has far reaching benefits for both the body and mind. The many physical tasks needed to cultivate a suitable area gives me a chance to get exercise in the fresh air. It benefits the environment both by reducing the fossil fuels used transporting veg, but also by the use of less intensive, and more ‘organic’ approaches to growing vegetables.
It provides me with a plentiful supply of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. In an era when it is easy to become reliant on supermarkets, we often become divorced from the natural cycle of the year, and get used to having everything available at any time.
Growing your own allows you to grow some items which won’t appear on supermarket shelves. A quick stroll through my allotment site is like a walk around the world. My plot neighbours plots from Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, India, Trinidad, Greece and Iran (not to mention the chaps from Ireland and Durham.) Each one of us brings our own unique food culture, growing a bespoke selection of varieties which appeal to our own palates. Many of the items we grow are either expensive, or unavailable in the nearby shops. Sometimes the varieties available to home growers have better flavour, unique disease resistance or even a higher nutritional content than those bred for commercial growing where visual appeal and shelf-life take priority.
I think it is also beneficial for our minds as the process of growing and nurturing seems to me to be saturated with positivity. I am filled with an immense sense of satisfaction when I am able to cook a meal using ingredients I have cultivated myself. Perhaps it is a unique combination of variety with soil type and conditions that makes it taste better. Perhaps it is because it has been picked at the peak of ripeness and served fresh from the field within hours. Or perhaps it is because this plant is unlike those others mass produced in a field full of lookalikes. This one has received hours of nurturing, care and attention from my hands as I have raised it from the tiniest seedling to maturity and it will finally be able to fulfill its ultimate goal and destiny, as part of my dinner.