I have just been doing a little research on the trend towards growing one’s own food which is really taking off here in the US partly as a result of the recession and partly because young families are worrying more and more about the health risks of store bought food. Evidently the sale of vegetable seeds in 2009 was up 35% over the previous year and predictions are that sales will be even higher this year.
Like me many urban dwellers start small and then as their taste buds explode with the delight of vegetables straight from the garden something strange happens and they become obsessive about converting their lawn into edible vegetation. There is nothing quite like the wonderful sweet flavour of tomatoes picked straight from the vine or of corn that has gone straight from plant to the pot. And to experience the delight of leeks and carrots that have been dragged out of the frosty ground is out of this world.
Why has it taken us so long to discover what people in most other parts of the world have always known – store bought food just doesn’t taste real even when it is organic and “picked from the vine”. Even a friend of ours who is a well known celebrity chef has just discovered in his 70s that food grown in your own backyard is better than any restaurant gourmet meal.
There are many other benefits to growing your own food too. Working in the garden gets us outside into God’s good creation. As i mentioned in a previous post on nature deficit disorder, I don’t think that we realize the consequences to our health – both physical and spiritual of lives that are spent inside under artificial light. Insomina, depression, and of course obesity are all linked to sedentary indoor lives. A growing number of people are talking about nature deficit disorder. Kids in particular suffer from nature deficit disorder and as I have mentioned in a previous post even attention deficit disorder can be alleviated by encouraging kids to spend more time outdoors.
There is also evidence that exposure to soil bacteria could improve our health by boosting our immune system. Other studies suggest that just looking at nature can improve our health and reduce the time it takes us to recover from surgery. So imagine what a difference a whole afternoon outside can do.
Getting our kids involved in the garden can have even more benefits. In her article Go Outside and Play: Four Reasons Why Exposure to Nature is Essential To a Child’s Wellbeing, Suzy DeYoung talks about the amazing health benefits of getting kids outside. According to the EPA indoor air pollution is the US’s number one environmental health concern. They encourage kids to get outside and play but I think that working in the garden can be even more beneficial.
There is also evidence that spending time outside in nature stimulates our creativity and imagination. And gardening certainly adds to that creativity – because once we have produced all that food we need to work out what to do with it which means that we become more creative in our cooking and our preserving of food too. At least that has been my experience.
And last but not least, working in the garden has drawn me closer to God in ways that I never imagined. As I explain in my garden reflections To Garden With God , though I may read about life, death and resurrection in the bible, it is in the garden that I really experience it. And when I am overwhelmed with 50 pounds of zucchini I not only understand the generosity of God but I also see that God’s abundance must be shared or it goes bad – just like the manna in the desert.
Have you ever thought about the fact that one of God’s first acts after the creation of the world was to plant a garden? And evidently the Hebrew roots of this passage in Genesis imply that god got down in the mud and physically planted the garden.
God is a gardener so it is no wonder that most of us come alive when we get out into the garden. Of course you do not need to love gardening in order to reap the benefits. But I do think that some form of interaction with nature is essential to health and I do often wonder how much more healthy we would all be if we ate mainly the vegetables that we grew ourselves and incorporated a regular rhythm of time spent outside in our daily schedules.