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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Gardening (Practically) Saved My Life...



Yes, I know the title sounds extreme and dramatic but let's face it; in the big picture of things it's true.  Before gardening, my dinner plate was a literal world of tan and brown with no intention for change.  I lived thinking that carbs were the new green and I embraced their ability to bring me comfort and joy.  Vegetables were the enemy and the further away I could be from them the better.  

Oh, I embraced the perennial favorite, corn-on-the-cob and well, that was it.  Really.  I know...so sad.  It's not that I didn't want to be healthy, but hey - I was young and my body could take it!  So, I fed it lots of comfort foods and when I ate a small amount of green beans or an occasional salad, I figured I was "doing my body good." 


It wasn't until I began to have digestive issues that I began to take my health more seriously.  I was convinced that I was dying and when the doctor told me that I just needed more fiber, I was insulted.  How dare he say that what I had could be fixed by me eating better!  So, I added more fiber to my diet...like the Metamucil kind until I learned how I could get all the fiber I need from vegetables and fruit - who knew?!

Enter gardening.  I always liked to grow things when I was a kid...but these were of the flower nature.  So I started to plant lots of flowers...I mean lots.  I put them all over our small little yard and I still have a lot.  Then I progressed to herbs...after all, they flowered too and I was fascinated by the fact that you could eat and drink them and they could help you too.  Then I thought, why not plant a few tomatoes and a pepper plant or two as well?  Once that happened, I decided to can what I grew and the garden jumped into life.
So, I want to share with you how gardening is a practical way to "save" your life and learn how to eat better. 

1. Gardening Connects You to Your Food.
       I know it may sound silly, but when you grow it, you feel connected to your food.  You know the work and the effort that went into tilling and raking the soil, planting the seeds, and pulling the weeds.  It's a lot of effort and it makes you appreciate what you've had just grown.  It's way different than buying produce at the store. You didn't nurture that vegetable and you don't know where it came from - in other words, you have no emotional connection to it.  As strange as it may sound, planting the vegetables made me want to eat them!

I remember always planting a small patch of baby carrots and pea pods for our then toddlers.  I would tell them where "their" garden was and they would wander in and snack on them at will.  I'll never forget the time when our younger son came into the house with a dirt ring around his mouth after pulling some carrots...I very quickly introduced him to the garden hose!  The point is, he felt connected to his food and still loves those vegetables to this day.


2. "If You Plant It, You Must Eat It."
       This is very similar to the first reason; feeling connected to your food except in this case, it's more about feeling "responsible" for eating what you grow.  Yep, it's true.  I thought, "Wow, I just planted 10 rows of green beans and I really should can them and then eat them."  I never liked green beans.  I mean, I hated green beans.  However, they are one of the easiest veggies for me to grow and I grew them like crazy.  I had mountains of beans.  I felt very successful as a gardener but in order for that success to make sense, I needed to actually consume what I grew.   And I did, but I admit, very slowly!  

I also began to realize that if I actually ate what I grew, I could save some $$.  The practical side of me responded to this very much and I began to experiment with the vegetables, trying to find ways to "hide" them in food so I would eat them.  It eventually worked and I actually like green beans now and have fun growing lots of different varieties. 


3. Gardening Introduces You to Unique and Different  Vegetables.
      Everything from tomatillos to Mizuna...gardening has expanded my mind and palate to new flavors and textures.  After a while, growing just tomatoes, peppers and green beans radically expanded to new frontiers of vegetables like the vertical growing green; Malabar Spinach (which grew over 15 feet tall) to unique varieties of edible flowers.  I was amazed at all of the vegetable catalogs and the wealth of vegetables which were available to grow.

I began to include new and different varieties of the basic vegetables as well as including new kinds I had never tried before.  I remember talking about eggplant with my 100% Italian brother-in-law.  I began growing them, initially to give them to him and not realizing how many fruits they put on.  I knew we needed to start eating them too and eat them we did...slowly at first and now I don't think they've missed a season in our garden since...and that's been well over 20 years!  We grow them now because we love them and miss having them on our plates.  I have grown many different varieties of them as well.

There are many other reasons why gardening has "saved" my life, like the fact that it's a super fulfilling and even relaxing hobby.  I get so energized and yet still peaceful at the same time whenever I'm around my plants.  

And my health?  No more digestive complaints and I've been able to maintain the same healthy weight for over 20 years.  I thank my veggies for lending a hand in all of this and look forward to gardening for many years to come.  Most active gardeners live a long and healthy life!

I hope you are inspired to grow your own vegetables if you aren't already and maybe share how they helped to save your life as well!

How has gardening impacted your life?


Linked to these amazing blog parties...Waste Not, Want Not Wednesdays
Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

4 comments:

  1. I only have a small decked out garden. I wish I had a bigger space to garden.

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  2. Thanks for sharing on Waste Not, Want Not. I agree with you - eating becomes a totally different experience when you grow the food yourself. It's even like that for kids - this is why I think it is so important to involve kids on both gardening and cooking. They really are more likely to eat vegetables if they helped grow and prepare them.
    Janet
    http://ouroneacrefarm.com/

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  3. Thumbs up for your blog post...love it and completely agree with you on gardening aspect. We garden because we enjoy eating and it's fun too:)

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  4. This is great - Thanks for sharing your insight and what you've done with your garden space. Gardening like many things we do is a great lifestyle. -Carole

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