Editor's note: A version of this column was originally published in April 2011.
After a couple of gloriously sunny, blue-skied days like the ones we've just had, you can't help but urge spring on. I have not yet taken a shovel to the remaining crusty snow banks to help speed up the melting process, but the snow has melted enough so that I have begun to do my "garden rounds."
First to be spotted were the snowdrops, bravely pushing their heads up through the leaves and gravel on a southerly slope. The daffodil foliage is growing nicely along the foundation edge, along with some bright green weed that looks ridiculously healthy. The newly planted raspberries appeared to have wintered-over, but I suppose only time will really tell. And then this morning I spotted the rhubarb, its reddish green leaves furled into tight little knobs, just beginning to poke up at the edge of a perennial bed.
Part of the excitement is plotting and planning for the upcoming season. The seed order has been placed and is on its way. And while I am frustrated that most of the vegetable beds are still covered under the remnants of snow - look out snow banks, there are plenty of other things I can do to make good use of this burst of energy brought on by springtime. There are planting containers to go through, garden tools to check, and raking, raking, raking as the snow melts back a little more each day, exposing a bit more ground every day.
Now is also the time to make I make the switch in the kitchen. I start to crave fresh, green things like asparagus and spinach. While spending the winter living off produce stored in the freezer certainly is satisfying, as spring comes, I can't wait to begin planting things. I watch the weather, test the soil read about crop covers for extending the season and resolve that this will be the year we will put in a cold frame.
Do you have a garden? Or maybe you are a fabulously efficient container gardener? If not, consider it.
Growing your own food has got to be one of the most satisfying endeavors ever. There is something about the entire process - planting, tending and harvesting - that leaves you feeling renewed and satisfied, not to mention the obvious benefit of delicious produce. And growing something edible that you enjoy does not have to be a huge project, taking up lots of time, space or money, unless you want it to.
If you find that you aren't quite ready to take on a garden, or just need a bit more to supplement what you are already growing, remember all the other ways that we are able to connect with locally grown food. Check www.vermontagriculture.com or www.nofavt.org for listings of many of the farmstands, farmers' markets and other locally grown foods listed by county. Purchase a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), guaranteeing yourself fresh fruits and vegetables weekly while guaranteeing that farm support. Plan a day to take advantage of some time outdoors and visit a pick-your-own farm. And don't underestimate the neighbor or coworker who has planted too much for their own use and needs to share their bounty -- zucchini, anyone?
The important thing to remember as the spring sunshine thaws our memories of local produce and its' delicious flavor and friendlier carbon footprint, is planning to avail yourself and make eating locally part of your everyday life. The advantages and benefits of produce grown Here versus those grown There are indisputable. Our options Here are many -- try digging in the dirt and harvesting what you grow, stop by a farm stand regularly, make the farmers' market part of your weekly shopping routine. We're lucky to live in a place that values its food and its people -- farmers, gardeners and consumers -- so highly.
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn't have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at email@example.com.