We’ve hit that sweet spot in the Edmonton area, where thoughts of snow (that lasts, anyway) are behind us, we’re feeling confident enough to put plants in the ground, and local patios are packed with warmth-starved beer lovers. Festival season is upon us, a time when the biggest problems are deciding which ones to hit, and how to cram them all in. I’ve been in the Edmonton area for ten years now, and truly, this is the time of year I live for. June, July and August are the three months everyone survives winter for, foodies and non-foodies alike.
Thanks to meeting Lindsay Finnie-Carvalho at the St. Albert Public Library event I attended in March, I learned about the Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) system, actually happening at a farm near us over these months. Basically, people purchase a share of a local farm to support them. During harvest season, they help when they can on the farm with things like planting, weeding, or harvesting. In return, they get weekly boxes of harvest bounty that varies according to whatever has done well that week. Brilliant. And really, what’s more entertaining than trying to figure out what to do with all those radishes you've just been given?
I quickly signed us up for the CSA program at Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm in Bon Accord. Sure, I wanted to support Farmer Tam Anderson and her farm, but I also wanted to give Dragon and Kangaroo a better idea of where food actually comes from. Carrots do not naturally arrive peeled, cut, washed, and in bags at the grocery store. Someone has to plant them, nurture them, harvest them, prepare them, and bring them to the dinner table. That’s a ton of behind-the-scenes work that goes on before they hit our bellies.
Kangaroo and Dragon were immediately on board. And they even seemed interested in helping (the fact that I mentioned there would be ice cream available on the farm didn’t hurt, either). The first event was a CSA member potluck, after which everyone put together their own veggie planter, which would grow for a month in a greenhouse at the farm (April is still dicey for planting outdoors).
The planting choices were unending, ranging from tumbler tomatoes to nasturtiums. After much discussion Dragon, Kangaroo and I finally decided to plant tomatoes, peas, beans, Genovese basil, lettuce, and edible Johnny Jump Ups. Lance gave it a quick thumbs-up (he wisely usually lays low when the foodies amp up in our family).
A few weeks later, we were scheduled to help plant tomatoes for the CSA garden. Kangaroo and I showed up for our 3-hour shift donning our wellies, ready to work. A few teams formed, and in all everyone planted 250 tomato plants, assembly-line style. Kangaroo was in the thick of the action like a foreman, reminding everyone to add their calcium nitrate to the planting mix, chanting “Farmer Tam says it helps tomatoes grow tall!”
A month after the potluck, we picked up our planters. They were overflowing and no one could believe how much everything had grown. We had to replant almost everything in the ground, and the kids and I now take regular inventory of their progress in our garden. The basil was an early casualty, but we’ve already eaten our lettuce in a salad and sandwiches. Everyone seems to think it tastes better because we grew it ourselves.
Don't forget to catch my foodie gene piece in the July/August issue of The Tomato, coming soon!
Who writes this blog?
I'm an Edmonton-based writer and genetic counselor on the hunt for the foodie gene... my family is living proof that it exists. Read my blog for musings on food, genetics, and sometimes both at the same time!
© 2019 Deepti Babu
Photo from www.now.tufts.edu