Let’s face it, gardening is a commitment. It takes time, sweat and, at least initially, an investment of money. So why bother?
There are many reasons to grow your own food. They range from the simple – the satisfaction you get biting into a BLT made with a juicy homegrown tomato – to the lofty – a desire to reduce one’s carbon footprint by eating food that is locally and sustainably grown.
Here are my five reasons to grow your own:
1. To have access to outstanding ingredients.
Do you like to cook? Feed your epicurean muse with high quality produce grown right outside your kitchen door. Experiment each growing season with new varieties such as rainbow chard, purple carrots, or peach habanero peppers, and then let their colors, flavors, and textures inspire your creativity in the kitchen. Recipes I’ve invented using my garden harvests include spinach and arugula toasts, butternut squash ravioli, and corn cakes with roasted red pepper butter sauce. (I will be sharing many of my recipes here.) Even if you prefer to follow a cookbook, simply grow a few pots of herbs like basil, cilantro, and rosemary to add whole new dimensions of flavor to your favorite recipes.
2. To have a healthier diet.
We all know the health benefits of vegetable-based diet. When you limit animal products and processed foods in your diet, you lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Limiting your exposure to pesticides also may reduce your risk of contracting certain types of cancer. The following vegetables appear on the 2014 “dirty dozen” list of produce that contains the highest level of pesticides when grown non-organically: celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes. These vegetables are all easy to grow in your own garden using organic principles, thereby reducing your exposure to harmful environmental chemicals. Stay tuned for my vegetable growing guides and gardening tips.
3. To get more fit.
Are you trying to lose a few pounds but hate going to the gym? Gardening helps you get fit naturally. Performing common garden chores burns fat and strengthens and tones all of your major muscle groups. One hour spent cultivating the soil burns 300 calories (or more depending on your weight), while weeding for one hour burns around 280 calories. Your sweat equity is returned in the form of high-nutrient, low-calorie vegetables.
4. To save money.
Gardening is a great way to reduce your food budget. The Great Recession of 2008-2009 led to a resurgence in gardening as Americans sought ways to reduce spending. Ongoing drought conditions in the west have kept food prices high, and thrifty gardeners continue to save money at the grocery store by growing their own. You can, too.
Instead of buying expensive pre-packaged salad greens, which tend to get slimy after just a couple of days in the refrigerator, plant a window box with a lettuce mix and harvest your own greens as you need them in about 30-40 days, or even sooner for baby greens. You can buy a package of 250 seeds for about the cost of one 10-ounce bag of mixed greens and enjoy salad after salad. Stretch your savings into winter by expanding your garden and freezing your own beans, peas, and sweet corn or canning tomato sauce and pickles. I will show you how.
5. To teach your kids healthy habits.
Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in America, with the percentage of obese children tripling over the last 30 years. The primary causes are a fast food diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle. Gardening with your kids is a fun family activity that will get them outdoors, teach them where food comes from, and help instill healthy eating habits from an early age.
What are your reasons for growing your own? Please share them in the comments section below.