With two busy little boys, grocery store shopping can be like an Olympic event. I could tell you some stories (and so could more than one checkout person) but we’ll save those for another time. We spend most of our trip in the produce section and thankfully my kids love fruit and veggies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining… yet. That comes around day two, three if I’m lucky, in the week after getting groceries. It’s as if a swarm of locusts have descended and consumed ALL of the fruit. Then it’s “slim pickin’s” until I get time to go shopping the following weekend. Time constraints, and the fact that there is no way I’m emotionally ready to repeat a trip to the grocer, often leave us “fruit-less”.
All joking aside, we are very lucky to be able to fill our grocery cart every two weeks. And now with the promise of warmer weather on the horizon, we are looking forward to picking strawberries at MacLeans, in addition to our own wild blackberries and blueberries. This year, I really need to “up my freezer game” to bridge the gaps, especially with the huge crop I’m anticipating from my first garden here in Lovat.
Fresh food is a gift and one that we all need, but people are facing unprecedented hunger levels and famine across the globe. Hungry people are everywhere. In my first-year design studio in landscape architecture at the University of Guelph, we were tasked to develop a new landscape for an inner-city church. The church had flower beds, some established trees and shrubs, typical foundation planting, but other than that, we were given a blank slate. After digging (pun intended) into the church programs and listening to presentations from congregation and clergy, I became fixated on the number of hungry people that came through their doors every day. These people needed food, and so the church had started a meal program. Their volunteers and donations were doing amazing things—in many ways, they were “moving mountains”. I wanted to—no, had to—do more than create a pretty place with my design. So I developed an edible landscape that supported the kitchen and wrapped around the church. In the end, it was a help, and it looked good too. All plants have an aesthetic value and mixing edible plants with more showy perennials made beautiful sense.
A few years later I stumbled across a program that turned a light on in my head. It was a registry in the Ottawa area (www.notfarfromthetree.org) that allowed anyone to register a fruit tree. Whether in a backyard or a highway median, fruit trees were mapped across the urban landscape. Pickers were organized and sent to harvest. A portion went to the owner and the rest to a community kitchen very similar to the one in my first year project. Rather than plant more or buy, harnessing community power and harvesting existing fruit made perfect sense.
My point is a reflection of the times in more ways than one—we are over-reliant on the grocery store as our primary food source. Some questions: if we are landscaping and planting anyway, doesn’t it make sense to grow food at the same time? In the same space even? And/or pay attention to the abundance that already exists around us in the wild and forgotten places? In recent years, chefs and the culinary crowd are pulling inspiration from wild and foraged foods—this is more than just a passing fad! In Advocate Harbour, the restaurant Wild Caraway is a little piece of mouth-watering heaven. Everything on their menu comes from their yard or within close proximity. They are regulars at Sugar Moon chef nights and are highly recommended.
Coltsfoot to carrots, food is all around us. From wild to waste, there is no good reason why there should be so many hungry people. We need to get a handle on things, so grab your forks and shovels because it all starts with you and me.
Mix and Mingle | Edibles to incorporate in your garden
- High-bush Blueberries
- Evergreen Barberry
- Bee Balm
- Ornamental Kale
- Day Lilies
- Runnerless Strawberries
- Cascading Strawberries,
- Cascading Tomatos