Where do your food dollars go?
I am a cost basis gardener. Since I work and am used to limited gardening time and space, I identify my favorite and most expensive food items, then grow my own. Growing your most expensive foods shaves proportionally more off your market economy food budget than growing beans, for example. It is the fastest way to increase financial security because it frees up more cash to spend elsewhere, paying off debt, buying other things you need, or enabling you to work fewer hours away from home.
For example, I plant Saffron crocus because it is the most expensive spice on the planet. Marco Polo carried saffron on his travels because it is worth astronomically more than gold or silver and weighs nothing. My annual saffron budget would buy several years supply of pinto beans, but I cannot live on beans alone. These are fiddly to harvest. I am thinking about planting a few in my new concrete block wall, at about 32 inches off the ground instead of capping the wall off.
Here in the mountains I built a special blueberry bed because I love blueberries and they don’t like alkaline soil. I was rewarded with three weeks of blueberries this summer on second year plants. Next year I will have three weeks of fresh berries and frozen berries too. The blueberry bushes just look like green shrubs against the trailerstead except one month out of the year they have beautiful blooms and berries. Even if building raised beds is more work for me, I count them well worth it.
I plant Blackberries because they are crazy good and not only expensive in the market economy but tend to have mold on them…. eeeuuw. Blackberries spread nicely and you get a bigger crop each year.
I plant Raspberries because… raspberries! The cost of one bitty container will buy a raspberry plant. Raspberries also spread and your crop will increase each year. They don’t ship or store long fresh in the market economy. I suggest eating fresh from your garden and making raspberry jam and frozen berries from the rest. To freeze, put perfect berries on a baking sheet in the freezer. After frozen put them in a freezer bag. Pour out however many you need.
I love fresh asparagus and it was the first thing I planted here. Fresh asparagus is not available at any price in any market economy store and I don’t eat what the store sells because it doesn’t taste good. I do not process asparagus for later use, just lightly steam it when in season.
I grew Japanese Persimmons because a ripe persimmon is ambrosia. I will grow American persimmons here because they are more cold hardy although the fruit is smaller. These are not readily available in the market economy in New Mexico. If I want to eat it I will need to grow it.
I plant Alpine Strawberries for their intense flavor and unshippable delicacy. I admit I have never grown enough of these to freeze. Hard to even get them into a basket to go in the house for dessert! Once in a while I take a few to someone as a tiny gift. For someone in the hospital they are a treat.
I plant lots of herbal teas because I drink tea all year long and fancy teas have fancy prices. This year I planted Cinquefoil which is native to the rocky mountains but now grown in Tibet as a substitute for Camellia sinensis. I can’t wait to try it next year.
I planted cooking herbs my first year because I cook and don’t want to live without them and choose not to pay market economy prices or guess at market economy substitutions, like the 40 different plants that are sold as Oregano.
I plant heirloom tomatoes because all market economy tomatoes are GMO and I just say no to GMO. In Seattle I planted the most delicious chiles because the market economy hardly sells chiles there and I needed them for Mexican dishes. Here in New Mexico I grow them because we have the best chiles ever.
I plant Asian Pear because it costs the most and is crisp and juicy. I added a Bartlett Pear this year because I have room and it was half off end of season. It will cross-pollinate with my Asian Pear and create nice European pears. I prefer D’Anjou Pear and will add it later in a triangle with the other two. I will have pears to store and process into pear juice. Pear juice is a nice liquid for cooking or drinking. Pear sauce is a tasty change from applesauce. Pear halves make lovely desserts.
As the economy worsens, my garden grows and I have added staples with increased focus on food security.
I plant heirloom Bolita Beans, an heirloom that grows here without supplemental water. They cook in half the time of pinto beans and use less market economy fuel. Bolitas taste creamier and richer. To be fair, beans cook free in my solar oven but everyone does not have one. I recently discovered that Bolita Beans are being lost to cross-pollination with pinto beans. I have a new commitment to saving Bolita seed every year and expanding their growing space. I have always interspersed beans and peas throughout my garden so they fix nitrogen for my others plants. No poisons, no fertilizer to damage soil biota.
I have planted potatoes 2 years in a row and will expand my potato patch next year. Potatoes are nutritious, have bulk calories, and heritage potato flavor is superior to russets. Russets store and ship well so are favored in the market economy. Beware market economy values… they have brought us tasteless food.
I found short season mountain corn and will try it next summer. It is all kinds of colors so I might have interesting cornbread and tortillas from it. This is another bulk calorie food to help survive without buying from the market economy. It will start with a small patch to see how they do and whether they stand up to my harsh conditions.
As always, I eat wild foods from my Food Forest. This year’s stars were pinyon nuts, but wild Amaranth is right in there.
I brought a pot of wild violas inside because they are evergreen and the best salad green I have grown. These do not ship well and are unavailable from the market economy.
However you plan your garden, a little cost accounting cannot hurt. In the end, it isn’t about zucchini overwhelm, it is about delicious and sustaining food. Garden wisely for your own tastes!