The key to great food is great ingredients. And the cleaner, fresher, and greener the ingredients are, the better the dishes we create from them taste.
That is one of the major reasons French food is so fantastic. They buy fresh produce every day, picked that morning.
Unfortunately, outside of a few major urban areas, Americans seldom have access to daily farmers’ markets with this morning’s pick. At most, we may have weekly open-air markets. In a lot of locales, we don’t even have that. And when we do, it is often difficult to find vendors who grow organically.
So to ensure we have at least some truly fresh produce for our kitchens, our best bet is to grow it ourselves in our backyards, gardens, porches, or even window sills. If all you have is an old flower pot or a dented bucket, that’s fine. Use it.
If you grow it yourself you know for sure (1) that is is non-GMO and organic and (2) that no chemical fertilizers or poisons have touched it.
“But I’ve never had a garden in my life and I have absolutely no idea where to start. Besides, I have a really busy schedule and gardening takes way too much time.”
That used to be me. Honest and true.
But each minute and hour that ticks by after produce is severed from the plant, it loses more and more nutrients. So being able to add really fresh greens, even if only as part of your meal, is always best. That’s true from a nutritional standpoint and a taste standpoint to boot. Plus, it’s fun!
All it took to totally change my outlook was two old, beaten-up flower pots and a little start of organic lettuce and spinach from the local plant store. I bought one small plastic tub of “Mixed Exotic Lettuces” and one of whatever variety of organic Spinach they had, for $3.99 each, and planted them in those two old flower pots, old dirt and all. Watered them every day or so, whenever I thought about it. And they took off.
That was the best $8.00 I ever spent.
I put the pot of my little lettuces on one side of the sidewalk and the pot of the little spinach on the other side, just off of my back door where they were easy and quick to get to. Of course, I still had to buy salad greens that year because two pots were not enough for the whole year. But those two pots produced enough greens that every single salad I was able to add at least some absolutely fresh, just-picked greens to what I purchased at the store. And several times during the year I had a whole fresh salad directly from my yard.
And that got me hooked.
Yard-to-table is as fresh as it gets.
The next year, a friend from Marseilles in the South of France sent me a birthday present, a paperback copy of Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work by Mel Bartholomew. And suddenly, a new passion grew.
In fact, I loved the book so much that it was my Christmas gift to almost everyone I knew that next year. And everyone LOVED it!
Small spaces do not need to limit your nutrition. Growing your own is cheaper, a lot more nutritious, way more tasty, and really a delightful way to connect to the earth, the seasons, and your table — so Frenchly.
So that year, humble as it was, I built this little 4 ft X 6 ft garden and filled it with rosemary, squash, cucumber, and cauliflower. I continued to grow my lettuce in pots or old buckets or whatever kind of containers I could scrounge up, all along the sidewalk. I even used a few discarded kids’ beach sand pails with holes punched in the bottom for drainage.
The next year, I added another section for onions, garlic, cabbage and eggplant. All trial and error. And all based on what we most like to eat and what grows best in our climate and soil.
Then the third year I added another section, solely for the herbs I use most in my kitchen — basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, and parsley. And I added several varieties of lavender in big pots interspersed with the lettuces and spinach because I love the Herbs de Provence so typical in the South of France.
Then, when the updated version of Bartholomew’s book came out in 2018, I bought the sprial-bound update, All New Square Foot Gardening, 3rd Edition, Fully Updated: MORE Projects – NEW Solutions – GROW Vegetables Anywhere. It is a true treasure.
Just start small. See how you like having really fresh ingredients. And start with what you like. Grow what you are most likely to eat. Don’t be afraid to start with just one or two pots. For most people lettuce and spinach are the easiest place to start because they are cheap and easy to grow, and almost all of us love fresh green salads.
You may never want to go beyond a pot of lettuce and a pot of spinach. But, if you love food as much as I do, I’m betting you will, even if you don’t think so now.
I have a large yard. But I have no love of being a farmer. I intentionally keep my garden small. I mulch it once a year, water it, weed a few times during the year if I absolutely have to, and that’s it. We don’t need a huge supply. And I personally have no goal to become totally self-sufficient (although I can understand and I laud that goal for others). But having fresh vegetables for most of our meals — from yard-to-table — truly allows us to live so Frenchly even thousands of miles away from daily farmers’ markets.
And I promise it does not take much space or much time.
Try it. I guarantee you’ll like it.
Please note that So Frenchly is an Amazon affiliate, which means if you purchase one of the books mentioned in this article that Mimi will make a (very) small percentage on the purchase but it will not change the cost of the book to you. Mimi mentions nothing on this website she has not personally tried or tested (unless she says so).