BORN TO SHOP
Not digging your fruits and veggies these days?
Did the gargantuan carrot from your fridge look and taste like one the wooden fence posts delineating your suburban backyard?
Did the last supermarket strawberry you ate, the giant Californian with the white cap and shiny skin, leave you yearning for one of those dusty little redheads dotting the fields of your childhood?
Perhaps one reason you’re not digging your fruits and veggies these days is because you’re not digging your fruits and veggies. In other words, maybe it’s time you stopped depriving yourself of nature’s candies and grew a garden, or started buying your produce from someone in the Yukon who has.
No taste in the world compares to that of fresh, locally grown greens.
What I dug and snipped from my own tiny, poorly-maintained backyard garden in Porter Creek this summer and fall was 10 times tastier than anything I’ve purchased from a grocery store in a very long time.
Before I clued-in to what was wrong with my old favourites from the produce section, I had nearly sworn off carrots, tomatoes, apples and strawberries.
I blamed a decade of smoking for wrecking my taste buds, but I knew that wasn’t the whole story.
Lucky for me, before I planted my first garden this summer, my friends shared from theirs — blood-red tomatoes, sweet tiny carrots and varieties of crispy green and purple lettuces that made supermarket iceberg lettuce taste like… well, like supermarket iceberg lettuce.
I was glad to be reminded that fruits and vegetables did taste good, once upon a time.
But I was disturbed thinking that if our generation doesn’t do something now, my children and yours might not have any good ol’ days of great tasting peas and carrots to get nostalgic about.
Do we really need to be eating factory farm strawberries from California, which were either picked weeks too early to allow them to cope with the drive to the Yukon or else were genetically engineered to be rot-proof?
Thankfully, even in the Yukon, we can grow delectable plants that we can eat while they’re still fresh.
At a recent dinner in Takhini North: I ate beets grown by a friend in Lake Laberge, scalloped potatoes made with spuds from Wild Blue Yonder organic farm near Tagish, broccoli from the host’s backyard and fresh salmon from Haines, Alaska.
No kidding, the table was moaning like a cow in labour.
When we shop the produce sections at Extra Foods, The Real Canadian Superstore, Super-A and Food Fair, we run the risk of buying Frankenfoods.
Borrowed from the movie monster Frankenstein, the result of a scientist’s experiment gone desperately wrong, Frankenfoods is the detractor’s nickname for genetically modified (GM) crops and livestock, where the genes of one similar or dissimilar organism has been spliced into another, such as animal into vegetable, for the sake of mass production.
The long-term health effects to humans of ingesting transgenic organisms are unknown, as are the long-term effects to the environment.
But around the world, people expressed horror when they learned fish genes were being injected into tomatoes.
Monsanto, the biggest and oft-reviled company to patent such experiments, has made possible the supermarket fruits and vegetables of extreme size, colour and lifespan that we have come to accept, as well as the power to fight off pests, thus saving the industry billions on pesticides.
These added values have made fruits and vegetables more profitable for the factory grower, the supermarkets and cheaper for us.
We have only sacrificed taste, in some cases nutrition and possibly our health.
The safest way to go is organic.
Go organic, and avoid gambling with the unknown health impacts of GM foods, not to mention their bland taste.
You will also avoid any pesticides used on crops that have not been genetically engineered.
Like everything else in this new global system, however, you will pay considerably more for the quality and peace of mind that a ‘certified organic’ vegetable guarantees.
In the Yukon, we have four certified organic vegetable farms and nearly 30 vegetable farms in total to choose from.
We have a community garden in Whitehorse if you’re an apartment dweller, or have no room for a garden plot at home.
We have Three Beans and Riverside Grocery, which sell organic foods.
The big-box stores are also honing in on the organic produce market, with mixed reviews.
When growing your own garden, the seeds you buy will be a big part of what you bring to the table, as will the type of soil you use.
I chose not to buy Monsanto seeds or any other genetically engineered seed, which are prominently sold at our local grocery and hardware stores.
A novice gardener, I was pretty lost, despite my research and all the advice from my cousin Anna, an organic farmer in Ontario who learned some of what she knows at an organic farm in the Yukon.
I chose to buy organic soils and seeds so that I would at least know what I was working with.
I used no pesticides and, luckily, had no problems with bugs.
It was half successful.
No tomatoes grew from the towering plants in my greenhouse, no onions, no peppers – sweet or hot, no squash.
But I got peas, potatoes, carrots, spinach, lettuce, arugula, one floret of broccoli and a great learning experience.
Next year’s garden will be filled with more of the same, plus beets.
And, after tasting my friend Sally’s zesty greenhouse tomatoes, I’m psyched about trying my thumb at tomatoes again.
Meanwhile, winter’s coming and the local veggie bin is emptying out.
Maybe I’ll eat only supermarket meat all winter long.
Although… have you noticed how meat has very little taste these days?
Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.