Popo's Garden

Jul. 26, 2011

When I was a little girl I LOVED vegetables. Brussel sprouts, green beans, peas, carrots...you name it! I'm sure a lot of this had to do with the fact that I spent hours and hours helping my grandpa (a.k.a. Popo) in his garden. I loved picking vegetables during the day and seeing them on the dinner table that night. I loved the process and they always tasted oh, so yummy!

Somewhere between college up until about a year ago a funny thing happened... I fell out of love with vegetables. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that for the first two years of college I was dependent on the college cafeteria for meals. The vegetables we were served looked nothing like the vegetables I knew as a child. The green beans in the college cafeteria were fresh from a can that often looked like they were soaking in swamp water. When I finally moved into my own apartment and started grocery shopping I was excited to start cooking my own food...including vegetables. I tried and tried again, but the vegetables just weren't the same. Over time I just stopped trying.

When my family started transitioning to healthier eating habits I knew one of the biggest challenges I would face was introducing more fresh vegetables into our diets. The more I read about food and how it is produced and brought to market, the more I began to understand why I may have fallen out of love with vegetables in the first place. I learned why most of the vegetables I bought at the store look very little like the vegetables that grew in Popo's garden. You see, when Popo pulled an onion from his garden they weren't all HUGE and perfectly symmetrical. The cucumbers varied in size and color and were rarely as fat as the grocery store variety...the same is true with the tomatoes, green beans and brussel sprouts. Knowing that commercially grown vegetables are often water logged to increase their size to make them more marketable helped me understand why so many store bought vegetables were tasteless. That's not to mention the chemicals and artificial ripening systems that are often used on commercially grown vegetables. Fresh produce also loses a certain amount of nutrients when it isis transported long distances, picked before it ripens, and is ripened artificially which is often the case with many store bought vegetables.

Since learning this information I have been much more mindful of the quality of produce I buy for my family. I truly can't believe the difference in taste between the vegetables I used to buy and what I'm buying now. My love of vegetables has returned and I'm happy to report that my kids are loving them as well. While I love the vegetables that come from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box or from the local farmer's market, nothing compares to the vegetables from Popo's garden. On a recent trip back to my hometown Popo handpicked a variety of vegetables for me. (Yes, you read that right...Popo is 90 years old and his garden is still growing strong!) I loved making my favorite salad for my family that night and having a box of home grown goodness to bring back to Wisconsin with me. Thanks, Popo!

My favorite summer salad (recipe below):

This is an easy salad to throw together and it always goes over very well....especially on a hot summer day!

  • 1 cucumber

  • 1 red onion

  • 1 tomato (I like to use 1/3 of 3 varieties of tomatoes...red, yellow and orange)

  • fresh parsley (finely chopped)

  • feta cheese

  • salt and pepper to taste

Chop all vegetables into small chunks, combine with fresh parsley and feta chese, salt and pepper to taste, refrigerate until ready to serve.

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