I live in northern California, just outside Sacramento and since moving into an apartment I miss my garden. I never realized just how much until I started vegetable shopping in the grocery store. Not only was it sticker shock (since I never considered what “a” vegetable would cost) but the produce was not fresh.
The Sacramento Valley is farm land after farm land, and they grow 90 percent of Japanese rice here. At one time rice paddies dominated the landscape along the Sacramento River, but today they’ve been cut back. We have farms that grow everything the country can eat and then some. Some 60 percent of the seed growers farm in the Sacramento Valley. And of course in the late summer we’re known as “Sacratomato” since more tomatoes are grown here than you can imagine.
Today, our local TV station featured their “Produce Man” standing in a beautiful field of celery root, and I learned that at Thanksgiving time they ship the majority back to New York. For their Jewish customers they leave the roots, dirt and leaves attached. I also got a lesson in eating and cooking celery root. I still don’t intend to try it. Then the camera panned to another field of cabbage, then on to leeks. Field after field of cool crop vegetables, all to be shipped to vendors outside California.
Not long ago the Sacramento restaurants started pairing with farmers to create Field to Table events. Now, that isn’t a new concept, since most restaurants want to use locally grown vegetables, and diners do appreciate this. And of course there are always farmers markets on specific days of the week, where the local produce is displayed and purchased.
What is different about field to door is that, for a price, you can order a box of seasonal vegetables delivered before dawn right to your door. You have a choice of weekly deliveries, or whenever you desire. So far I’ve only found one such group of farmers doing this, located in the Capay Valley, outside the Sacramento Valley. You can order different size boxes and most will have local seasonal fruit, too. My son is a vegetarian, I am not, but realized that after I left my garden behind, that I feasted mostly on veggies by grazing my garden. Maybe that’s what I miss the most. This week’s box consisted of golden beets, radishes, spinach, kiwi fruit, mandarin oranges, leeks, lettuce and carrots. I quickly chopped the leeks, sautéed them, then added cooked potatoes, potato water, and made a leek/potato soup. I thickened it with cream. Wow, what a flavor. The beets, carrots and more potatoes, I roasted for last night’s dinner. I used the lettuce, radishes and mandarins in a salad.
I’m hoping to find another smaller house to rent in the near future just so I can have my garden again. In the meanwhile, I continue to write garden columns and vegetable garden books. My latest, The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden Book will be out February 2014. After gardening most of my life I can’t just simply quit. But for now I garden in pots on my patio and dream of getting back to in-ground gardening where I don’t have to think about the price of “a,” and have that mean only one vegetable, not what the whole plant would cost.
Since it is in-between gardening seasons and the new seed catalogs will be arriving shortly, now is the time to reflect on what you got out of last year’s garden and what you want to try in your next garden. For help with varieties and gardening how-to visit my web site at www.PostageStampVegetableGardening.com.
Try adding some new varieties to your garden this year just for the fun of it.