Recently, we received an interesting press release: Jarden Home Brands, makers of the Ball brand of products for home preserving, have seen retail sales rise 28 percent since this time last year. They attribute the increase to consumers doing more canning as a money-saving measure in a weak economy.
And just two weeks ago, The New York Times had an article about a new trend: growing vegetables in your backyard to get around rising food costs. The owner of the Burpee company, one of the largest suppliers of seeds for gardening, said that sales of vegetable and herb seeds and plants were up a whopping 40 percent since last year. He credited a perfect storm of factors: increased interest in eating locally, food safety concerns such as the ongoing salmonella scare, and the food price spike.
It doesn't take much to see a pattern here: After a century of food production becoming more and more industrialized and globalized, everything seems to have reached a breaking point at once. The environment, food poisoning outbreaks, skyrocketing prices: The reasons to eat locally just keep piling up.
And it doesn't get much more local than growing food yourself, then canning it to preserve the surplus. Plus, there's something immensely satisfying about being personally involved in every step of the process, from earth to plate.
I grow tomatoes, herbs, and sometimes other veggies on my deck in Brooklyn . I once pickled cucumbers that I'd grown, and felt a huge surge of pride and satisfaction every time I pulled out a jar throughout the winter. (If you're interested in canning, see our canning primer for tips and recipes.) I'm also considering buying a compost bin so I can complete the cycle by turning my kitchen scraps back into earth that will nourish my garden. And my dream? To (some day) have a few chickens to give me fresh eggs every morning.
Have you ever grown or raised food yourself? Are you increasing your efforts in response to economic woes, food safety issues, or other concerns?
Sarah Kagan has been with Epicurious.com for more than five years and has been the site's food editor for the past two years. She has worked as an editor at culinary publications for a total of nearly ten years. She has written for the Zagat guides and Food Arts magazine, among others, and has appeared as a television cooking expert on MSNBC and NY1.
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