I am a city boy through and through. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting out of the city and heading to the mountains. As a matter of fact, all my favorite activities are in the mountains, but the city is where I like to dwell.  My point is that although I remember the days when San Jose and its surrounding areas still had plenty of orchards and farmland, I grew up around more concrete than orchard, and my family didn’t farm. My grandma, however, always grew tomatoes and sometimes a few other vegetables. She did this in the tiny strip of dirt bordering the cement walkway on the side alley of her house. It couldn’t have been more than ten feet long by three feet deep. And let me tell you, I have yet to taste a better tomato.

My grandma’s tomatoes were so good that my dad started growing a garden, and I did the same when I moved out. We have never produced one as good but we do sometimes come pretty close. There is something very fulfilling about preparing a meal with food from your own garden, not to mention how fresh and healthy the food tastes.

In my previous posts, I have mentioned how my kids, Nolan & Davan, and I love to cook together. Well, they also love to help in the yard, especially when it involves planting fruits & vegetables. Now that their taste buds are developing and they are acquiring likes and dislikes for certain foods, they are becoming more interested in what we plant. They now want to make sure that the garden is properly taken care of so we can harvest good stuff to eat.

There are many reasons that this makes me happy. First of all, I get to discuss the concept and benefits of using fresh, locally grown ingredients. I let them know that it’s good for us and the environment, and that the benefits to us aren’t only health related. When the kids shop with me, I point out how much produce costs and where it comes from, and explain that shipping produce from distant locations causes harmful emissions to the atmosphere. I let them know how much the seedlings we plant cost us and that the only emissions come from the local delivery truck that brought the seeds to the store, and from my car when I went to the store to buy them. We are city folk, remember, so the concept of emissions does not go over their heads. All I have to mention is the black smoke that comes from the big trucks we see all the time. So, they do understand that in addition to saving a few bucks, we help preserve the ozone layer as well.

Without giving them a full environmental science, horticulture, and economics class, I get to teach them the little bit I have learned about gardening and the importance of eating locally grown food as much as possible. This helps them understand that the tomatoes just don’t mysteriously end up at the store in bins for us to pick through. Someone had to plant, water, harvest and deliver them.  And as I mentioned, they have developing tastes and understand that fresh stuff just tastes better. They love watching our stuff grow from start to finish, and love to harvest and eat it even more.

This is where the cooking comes in because we don’t eat everything right of the plant; most of the stuff is simply an ingredient for whatever we are making. They love it when we”harvest to order” by picking just what we need for whatever we are cooking right then. It just seems to taste better. As I mentioned before, it is also fulfilling knowing that we did more to prepare a meal than just the cooking; we actually grew the ingredients too. Besides all of these great lessons that get infused into the process, the kids and I have fun. That’s what it’s really all about, right? Especially in this day and age where technology rules; it’s just good to get them outdoors away from TV and video games to do some gardening.  Not to mention I get to teach them a bit about my grandma, whom they never had the pleasure of meeting. I can’t help thinking about her and the delicious tomatoes she grew whenever I plant and harvest my own, and am glad the kids get to share in her tomato legacy.

Thanks Grandma!

– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad