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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in organic produce (3)


Nature’s Imperfections: “The Mottled Moments That Make Us Human”.

photo copywrite Urban Zucchini MamaAfter so many years of gardening, I have come to realize that sometimes we must adapt ourselves to nature’s whims and live with some of the imperfections that it delivers. Nothing in our gardens, or in life, is truly perfect. Even though the flower garden is a human invention, ascribed a predetermined character by a designer or landscape architect, each plant that contributes to making up the garden will ultimately perform and behave according to its predestined program, and the physical environment that it experiences. Therefore, fighting nature, i.e. fighting the preordained master plan, or The Master’s Plan, depending on one’s theological slant, is not realistic. The forces of nature are too powerful for human will to prevail. There are realistic limits to our mastery of our own little universe, whether it is a garden or the life we lead.

Here is an article from Shari B’s blog, Urban Zucchini Mama, where she shares experiences of raising healthy children while trying to avoid toxic chemicals and growth hormones. Recently, she wrote about imperfections found in organic produce, and how dealing with those flaws might help us better deal with the imperfections of everyday life.

Urban Zucchini Mama, Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Imperfection is Organic

There's nothing like apple picking in New England. For years, my family has enjoyed this fall tradition.

We've visited farms with train rides, hay rides, corn mazes, gourmet donuts and ice cream, petting zoos, pony rides, barbeques and playgrounds. These theme-park orchards provided great entertainment, but they could never provide us with one thing: organic apples.

They say that it is impossible to grow organic apples, pears and stone fruit on the east coast. They say these crops will quickly be devoured by molds, fungi and pests.  I've spoken to many vendors at my local farmer's market, and they all sing the same refrain: we do our best, we use as little spray as possible, if we didn't spray you couldn't eat these.... But that's not entirely true.

For the past two years my family has visited Old Frog Pond Farm, a 25-acre pick-your-own orchard owned by a local artist. Our first year there, it was sleepy and quiet. The trees were short and looked sparse. The apples were tiny, lopsided, disfigured and covered with black and brown splotches.

"Are these safe to eat?" I asked the young man who worked there. He smiled and informed me that these blemishes were a natural part of the apple, perfectly safe for human consumption. "Organic," he said, "is not perfect."

Still, we were a bit fearful, so we took them home and baked pies and cooked applesauce instead of eating them raw.

Over the course of the year, his words remained with me: "Organic is not perfect." It got me thinking about my perceptions of the world and myself. When I shop I seek out perfect products. I exercise in hopes of a more perfect body. I write aspiring to the perfect manuscript. I child rear with earnest desire to be the perfect mother ... wife ... citizen.  I keep searching for the aha! moment when I realize that it has all come together perfectly.

In a world of shiny, glossy, beautiful people, products and produce, it's hard to accept anything less.

This year, we decided to go back to Old Frog Pond Farm. My kids discovered hidden sculptures, designed by the owner, nestled between the trees and along the edges of the field. The orchard seemed busier, the trees seemed fuller, the choices seemed greater, and the apples seemed less blemished. When my kids asked for samples, I didn't bat an eyelash at the black mottled skins.

The apples were not beautiful by traditional standards. Not even close! But they were grown without toxic chemicals and they were delicious.

I've finally begun to understand that imperfection really is natural, organic and healthy. It's the mottled moments that make us human and the lopsided apples that give us something to write about.

Click here to read more anecdotes by Urban Zucchini Mama.


Care about the Planet? Who Ya Gonna Call? Urban Zucchini Mama! daughter Shari runs an environmentally friendly household. Every product that she buys does not knowingly pose a threat to our health or the planet.

This past year, she switched over entirely to locally raised, humanely treated and predominantly grass-fed beef that she buys weekly at her town’s farmers market or has delivered by the farmers themselves. Between May and December, she visits the last working farm in her own town, where she buys fresh laid eggs, literally collected that day. She’s also a member of a CSA year-round, and a basket of locally grown produce arrives at her door weekly. The farm she has chosen is part of a cooperative of East Coast farmers who work together to bring folks primarily organic produce. When organic is not available, they seek out conventional farms who use the safest practices possible.

No health or beauty aids are allowed in her house unless they are made with safe ingredients. That eliminates virtually every single health and beauty aid sold in conventional supermarkets and pharmacies. She has introduced us to the Environmental Working Group, and we now regularly visit their Skin Deep database before buying any cosmetic products (especially sun block). We had no idea that some conventional skin creams, for example, contain hormones that can cause breasts to develop in pre-pubescent boys? Scary isn’t it?

Long before it became trendy in the gardening community to diss the traditional lawn, her husband discovered that native fescue grass required less water and fertilizer than the blue grass he had been cultivating unsuccessfully. So their lawn has been environmentally friendly for years now. Even when he suspends care for the lawn during his summer vacation, the grass barely suffers from neglect. There’s something to be said on behalf of such lawns. It has been public knowledge for some time but few cared to discover the information about fescue until our east coast summers became hotter, the sun began scorching polite blue grass lawns, information surfaced about the consequences of the excessive use of fertilizers, and most important of all, the realization that water had become a precious commodity in some parts of North America.

If any of the above tid-bits have piqued your interest, perhaps you might enjoy reading Shari’s blog on how to raise a family that respects the planet and our bodies, taking budget and urban restrictions into account. Shari was Toy and Gear Advisor for and for eight years, so she has ample experience reviewing and researching products. She is also the author of two children’s books, and is currently working on a novel. Because she is a full-time mom and author, she doesn’t write quite as often as her dear ol’ dad, but if you stick with her, you won’t be disappointed.

Check out her website, called: Urban Zucchini Mama.   


Lettuce on Bicycle; Eating Locally Grown Food

It was time to visit the Boston branch of the family. The anticipation of seeing my daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters made the 6-hour car ride enjoyable, especially since the highways were free of snow. Each time I visit Boston, I get a culinary treat from the very tasty fruit and vegetables that my daughter sources. This time the surprise was savory lettuce.

My daughter cares about the quality of food she serves her family. For several years, she received incredibly tasty organic produce delivered to her door on a weekly basis. However, the quality of that produce deteriorated in winter; and would rot upon delivery. Eventually, she switched to buying locally grown food, year round, from a co-op run by Enterprise Farm in Massachusetts. In summer, the farm grows edible crops close to the greater Boston market. In winter, it sends a truck down the east coast of the USA, culling produce from organic and smaller farms, en route. To conserve energy, the truck never leaves Massachusetts empty. It is loaded with last season’s locally grown root vegetables and apples from the farm’s cold storage. The northern grown produce is delivered to southeast customers along the coast, while freshly grown produce is picked up from growers as far south as Florida. Upon the truck’s return to Massachusetts, the farm prepares a box of assorted produce for each co-op member.

Since I do not grow food, it is unusual for such a topic to inspire a blog. However, the culinary experience with lettuce in Boston deserves mention. A weekly box of food from the co-op was delivered to my daughter’s home, as I arrived. It came on bicycle to reduce both energy consumption and pollution. That same evening, a salad was prepared with the box’s fresh ingredients and I must confess that I had never before eaten lettuce with so much taste.

Buying produce that is grown close to home reduces the pollution and excessive fuel consumption necessary to bring food to market from distant growers. Local produce is tastier and fresher due to harvesting closer to sale date. Best of all, eating local crops encourages growers to continue operating farms. Many towns in North America have farmers’ markets and co-op services that offer fruit and vegetables harvested by nearby growers. To learn more about this healthy option for sourcing food, click here to visit the Enterprise Farm website.