The Message of Broccoli

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Apparently, you can’t hurry Mother Nature.  It took some experiments in container gardening on my patio and a raised bed plot at my First UU congregation to remind me of this truth.  About a week ago, I got tired of looking at these four broccoli plants that were producing abundant greenery, but no other signs of maturity, and I yanked them out for compost and prepared the pots for something else. Come to find that the broccoli sets planted at the same time in a raised bed (see above) suddenly decided to produce, right next to kale and chives and some tomatoes. This little harvest might only do for a meal or two, but it is part of a national movement to know where our food is coming from all the same.

I am no Master Gardener — though I know a couple — so my entire career as a micro-farmer has been entirely trial and error so far, probably like all farmers until the advent of agribusiness. Squash, I’ve learned, isn’t happy in a container. It puts out a tantalizing, bright flower, and then this small fruit appears and promptly drops off. Herbs get leggy, then woody, then inedible if you don’t keep them well trimmed.  Tomatoes, even the Heirlooms from Rutgers U. I bought in honor of The Garden State where I lived for decades, have a mind of their own no matter how many stakes and pieces of string you use to coax them into a nice, compact shape.  And broccoli, well, it is going to mature when it damn well pleases.

The flavor of our home-grown tomatoes and baby kale, and our twice-monthly box of vegetables from Kai-Kai Farms in Indiantown, are like the sun and rain on my resolve to get Transition going in my own town. And it makes it clear why many successful Transition Initiatives began with promoting local food before they tackle other categories of localizing the economy. The food story pretty much covers what’s wrong with business as usual. Produce that travels, even within the Continental U.S., is food that has burned enormous amounts of energy to get from farm to your plate.  It was bred and picked for shelf life and to survive transport in refrigerator trucks not to provide nourishment or pleasure. Real food is slow food grown nearby. That’s the message in the broccoli.    

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