Grow your own food. Hello, summer vegetables!

My summer vegetable garden. So far, I'm growing black and roma tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, broccoli, basil, chives and parsley.There's nothing more exciting this time of year than heading outside each day to check on my veggie garden. Growing your own food connects you with where food comes from. We get so used to picking up shrink wrapped and cartoned/bagged fruits and vegetables, we forget how produce simply comes from the soil. Because of that disconnect, we take for granted the work small farmers put into feeding the country. We are used to perfect-looking, uniform vegetables produced by agribusiness using excessive amounts of pesticides and fertilizer. Real produce is lumpy, bumpy and oddly shaped! Most grocery stores won't sell local produce because it doesn't fit the mold. Growing your own food puts all of that into perspective, but it's also tasty and fun.

Growing your own food also is the most sustainable way to feed the world. Many of us have even a small amount of land or porches for containers, and if we all used that to produce food for ourselves and our neighbors, we'd eat more locally reducing carbon emissions from transporting foods from far away. 

This concept of everyone growing their own food may seem far fetched from reality, but it's really not. Sustainable communities are popping up all over, with a concept of neighborhoods having a shared garden and greenhouse. Each household in the neighborhood volunteers time and the produce is shared throughout the community. I checked out one of these communities being built at Hickory Nut Gorge during my last road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's an incredible concept that I hope becomes a lasting trend.

I take the organic approach to gardening, starting from organic seeds, mixing my soil using compost from my heap, planting as much as I can in containers I have, and then planting the rest in the ground. I planted everything over several weekends mainly because I didn't have time to do it all at once. But this worked out better because the veggies will be growing in over time. 

My garden is very humble, but if everyone planted even this small amount, it would make a huge difference in terms of sustainability. I've been inspired my friend, Jessie, who has a larger veggie garden and hosted a party for her friends last weekend, making all of the party food from her own garden. Cucumbers were in full force so she made several different cucumber salads, cucumber sandwiches and a delicious cucumber dill dip. She also had a veggie tray with her own squash, snap peas and tomatoes. Jessie still has plenty of cucumbers and squash growing and is sharing them with her friends. 

Jessie's garden and the delicious food she served: cucumber dip, a veggie tray and cucumber sandwiches.

My uncle hooked me up with so many veggies from his garden. I've been eating them for days and trying out new recipes.My Uncle Larry also has an impressive garden that is feeding his large family and then some. I went by for a visit this week and he sent me home with a bag full of squash, tomatoes and peppers! Soon, I'm going to post some recipes I made with all these summer vegetables. 

It's not too late to grow your own food. Cooler temps of the fall welcome lettuce, cabbage, other leafy greens, broccoli and winter squash, which can be planted from seed when the weather cools off. I'm going to add some snap peas and carrots to my garden next week. If you have never grown your own food before, give it a try! Even just a few plants in a container can be fun and rewarding. If you are growing vegetables, leave a comment and let me know how it's going. I can always use some more inspiration or advice.