As Simple As Carrots?

Reader Contribution by Lisa D. Johnson
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I was raised around homegrown food! My Grandparents loved to grow things. Grandma grew flowers and fruit. Grandpa loved to grew vegetables, fields and fields of alfalfa hay and sunflowers! He was always happy to dig up potatoes, so excited at how many there were. He would grin from ear to ear when he unearthed the onions and they were bigger than his fist! His favorite were Walla Walla onions. Then there was the year that his sunflowers grew taller than he could reach on tippy toes with his hands stretched to the sky. He was so proud of those happy, yellow seed bearing plants!

Sometimes I was around during harvest time, but I was never a lot of help. If the raspberries were ready, I ate them as fast as I could, same with the peas. I can still remember sitting in the cool dirt of the garden next to a long bushy row of sweet smelling peas. Now that I am older, I look back on those memories. The glass bottles in the fridge with the fresh milk from Grandpa’s Dairy. One bottle always held the heavy cream that Grandma used for one of her many sweet creations! The cellar full of root vegetables and jewel colored jars of canning. The kitchen alive with the bustle of getting a meal ready. The table set, always with room for more in case friends showed up, and they usually did! This was common during that time. People worked hard and gathered together at the end of the day to share in their bounty.

It was also a time when convenience was becoming, well, convenient! I remember that it was somewhat of a novelty for my Mom to open a can of soup or a boxed dinner. It was quick and didn’t require a lot of extra ingredients as that part was done for you. I grew up loving cereal and Stove Top Stuffing! That was when those types of foods still had quality ingredients. In recent years, one has to wonder what we are really eating when we grab a box of cereal, a can of soup or a boxed dinner off the shelf at our grocery stores. I read about the soil of our farmlands being depleted of nutrients and topped with chemicals. Foods being created in a lab rather than in nature. There is a lot of information available and trying to learn more can be frustrating as it is almost overwhelming.

For me and my family, we started making small changes. Our first big step was to get chickens! That is what really started it all, that and the desire to get back to the basics. Some of the changes are hard to make. We get busy and it is quick and easy to make something pre-packaged. I am trying to learn how to make my own “ready to prepare” meals from ingredients that I know the origins of. The biggest challenge I’ve found is to replicate some of those familiar tastes. But in this process, I have discovered that simple really is better. Butter for example. Who knew that real butter could make toast and eggs taste just like they did when Grandma used to make them? I didn’t. Not until I switched and brought home real butter with only two ingredients rather than fat free margarine.

Recently, I discovered carrots, again. I am working on getting a good garden growing and carrots are on my must plant list. Until the day that I grow and harvest my own, I have been buying them in the store. It wasn’t until I picked up some fresh from the garden carrots at the local Farmer’s Market that I remembered how good they could taste. And they smelled like carrots!! Over the years as I brought them home from the store, they had no smell. The skin was thick and dry when I peeled them and they didn’t have much of a taste cooked and certainly not fresh. Well the other day when I brought the Farmer Market carrots into the house, I could smell them. I actually took them out of the bag and just breathed in the rich smell of carrots, real carrots! The peel was thin and moist. I sat and ate carrots like I used to do when I was a child. No dressing, nothing, and I loved them! Simple? Actually, yes! When you get back to the basics, things do get better. For us it’s a choice, step by step and day by day. It can be daunting to change habits, but what fun to discover things that have been forgotten.

A Vintage Carrot Seed Packet