Have you dreamed the impossible dream of starting your own garden of fresh vegetables and herbs. I dream of that every single day. I want to be able to walk outside, bend down, and pick a fresh tomato out of my garden.
Cultivating your own vegetables isn't only a way to ensure ultimate freshness by cutting out the middle man, called the grocery store. You can't completely eliminate the store because the seasons, climates, and you can't possibly grow every vegetable and herb you need. Plus, I love grocery shopping. Surprisingly, gardening improves your mental health as well.
I recently came across a fascinating article called "Why Gardening is Good for Your Health" by Anne Harding. Throughout the article she outlines the ways gardening can improve mental health. She gains support from studies in the Netherlands and Norway that show gardening "can fight stress even better than any other leisure activities."
The hobby forces us away from our busy lives of cell phones, laptops, and work to get fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. Studies have proven that gardening improves "depression symptoms" and can lessen the development of dementia in older adults.
This gardening chatter reminds me about my childhood. Ever since I was a little kid I loved getting my hands dirty. I would spend hours outside climbing trees, playing basketball or hosting backyard homerun derbies with the neighborhood kids, having acorn wars, digging holes in places I wasn't supposed to, and burying treasures instead of looking for gold.
I used to love when my mom stared at my hands in astonishment and then sent me packing to the bathroom before dinner. Everyday my hands were brownish, maybe black, sometimes with black dirt edging my fingernails. What can I say? I loved the feel of dirt on my hands.
This urge to play with dirt has stuck with me till this day. Except, instead of digging holes to bury precious treasures, I'm digging holes in a garden. I enjoy the pretty eye pleasing flowers, but my dream is a garden of fresh vegetables and herbs. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm taking baby steps.
The past two summers I spent a minor part of my evenings (after work) tending to my mother's gardens, picking weeds, watering flowers and plants.
I managed to successfully nurture and grow basil and tomato plants. I know basil plants are easy work, but mine grew like a baseball player on steroids. Every night I would pluck a couple basil leaves to add to salads and it became habit to eat fresh mozzarella with tomato, olive oil, balsamic, and a basil leaf adorning the top.
The tomato plants proved a tougher crowd. They grew slowly and I waited patiently. Patience paid off with delicious tomatoes.
The studies have also shown that "gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers." At the seafood restaurant I worked at in summers past, our boss kept a garden of fresh peppers, herbs, and tomatoes behind the restaurant. When lunch time approached, we constantly brainstormed of how to use the peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. When you're the produce source it's easier to make a habit eating more vegetables.
What does the article and my narrative say to all you foodies out there? Take your love for food a step further. Start a garden. Muscle up and try growing your own vegetables. Start small and expand if you're loving it like I do. And above all, get your hands dirty.
Everybody needs dirt on their hands. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs don't only make a healthier eating you, but gardening is a form of relaxation and mental health improvement. Everyone should start a garden. No excuses!
Have you grown any vegetables or herbs in your garden?