You know, when you garden - really garden, taking joy in growing flowers, fruits and food, not just hastily plonking a few shrubs and overused annuals here and there and tossing a bunch of pre-fab mulch about - you quickly discover that there is no shortage of food. Not really. And when you begin to garden seriously and your landscape becomes increasingly filled with edible plants, you realize that there are ARMLOADS of food that will grow in your yard. Yes, that yard- the one that is still mostly grass to mow. (And for the record, ours is the same way.)
Why am I on this rant? Because all fall I was inundated with fresh chestnuts. Yes, the same chestnuts that are selling online in specialty gourmet stores for prices from $7.50 (plus about $8 shipping) to $28.00 a POUND in some cities. And I've heard at least three people reminiscing tenderly about bygone holidays, wishing there were still chestnuts to roast. Well, hello! There are! I'm growing them and so can anyone else.
Yes, nut trees take time - but it becomes so worthwhile. Planting a tree is gardening on a completely different scale. We tend to become too focused on quick results, especially in a community where so many residents are military transients. Why plant a tree you may not get to see reach maturity? Hmmm....do you ever stop and wonder, what if everyone in the past had felt that way? A tree is your gift to your community, the wildlife in your habitat and to the future.
And, just a reminder, not every chestnut in the world went down with the terrible chestnut blight. When the great American chestnuts had all but disappeared in one of the great ecological disasters ever to occur in this country, two dedicated horticulturists, James Carpentar of Salem, Ohio and Dr. Robert T. Dunstan of Greensboro, N.C, discovered ONE blight resistant tree (just one!) and set about reconstructing an entire population of chestnuts. The resulting Dunstan chestnuts are wonderful trees - not as huge (yet) or as interwoven into the fabric of America, but fast growing and loaded with fabulous nuts. I can attest. I'm eating several as I type with hundreds more on the ground.
You can read this inspiring history at:
Nice folks. Great place to get yourselves a few Chestnut trees of your own.
But back to my original point: At our little farm, we've spent this entire year with lots and lots (did I mention lots?) of food in our yard. Tomatoes, vegetables, blackberries, blueberries, figs, Asian persimmons and Asian pears, (so many that the poor young trees broke in places under the load). Most of these are items that are hard to find or expensive in the stores. And here they all are. For a very modest start-up investment over the past decade and not particularly much work, truth be told.
You know, if every family planted just a few edible plants - some berry bushes, a fig tree or two, a small veggie garden - I believe it would change the health of the community, increase the overall feeling of pride in the community, and change - in many subtle ways - the way we view food and economy and self-reliance. We need to plant more gardens and teach others how to plant gardens.
I'm just plain for gardens. I'm for back yard gardens, front yard gardens, community gardens, school gardens, church gardens....
I believe it's never too late for a personal Victory Garden. Or a town full of them.