I think like that no longer. An heirloom to me must be something of value, and that value must be worth the effort of passing it on to my children and their children. Are you curious as to what I may be thinking about? Please continue to read, I will explain myself very soon.
My great-grandparents had a very diverse garden. Even though they lived in the north (only six hours away from Canada), they had all sorts of different tomatoes and squash and greens in their garden. My grandparents knew the tastes of all sorts of different melons and watermelons, they knew the tastes of many different berries and even the taste of many different apples and plums.
In the rush towards urban living in the 1950's our family lost that diversity. No longer did they have the room to grow so many different types of food, my grandparents had just a small garden in their city home. The reliance on the grocery store started and with it dependence on many different countries to provide the food on our table.
Eventually, my grandparents moved back into the country, but several decades had past and the seeds that should have been kept and preserved, were gone. They were no longer even offered in the seed catalogs anymore as genetically modified seeds or hybrids were only available to keep people coming back and purchasing more.
By the time I was born, there was only one kind of tomato available in the store. It was not until a couple of years ago that I found out what a real tomato tastes like. I had no idea there was lettuce beyond iceberg lettuce and did you know there are more berries than blueberries and strawberries? Suddenly, my eyes were opened to this almost lost treasure that we call heirloom seeds and a broad diversity of flavors, colors and textures in food!
I have been on a quest ever since to incorporate an heirloom life to pass on to my future generations. While we do not have even a tiny bit of land to call our own, we do have two community garden plots and a balcony. My sons are right there along with me learning the best ways to grow and harvest, how to keep our soil healthy and our plants growing strong. And together we are learning how to harvest and save our heirloom seeds (seeds which have been cultivated, saved and passed on for at least fifty years and are not hybrid or GMO) to pass on food diversity to our future generations, and anyone else willing to live life romantically.
As you can see, my seedlings from this post are doing well!Having lived both lives, I find there is nothing romantic about being dependent on a broken food system. There is nothing romantic about eating only a few foods with the knowledge of what happened with Ireland's Potato Famine (one crop, one blight, many, many lost lives). There is nothing romantic about small farmers loosing their livelihood based on an entire nations willful ignorance. And, there is nothing romantic about the food related diseases that our nation suffers due to a massive loss of local food diversity found in preserving heirloom seeds.
I choose to live romantically and have stuffed my balcony full of heirloom seedlings (see above picture) for our fall garden. I hope to have even more next year as I want to share the romance of our table with others. I look forward to walking with whomever will walk with me and allow me to share the beauty of our garden as it blooms into diverse loveliness.
I want people to see the drastic difference of my garden in comparison to the sadness of conventional farming. How my herbs are placed to attract pollinators, how certain lettuces are placed to divert the attention of pests that would otherwise eat the plants that I want to eat. How we garden with no additives or chemicals and yet retain healthy soil. I want them to see the romance of working with nature instead of working against it and trying to control and overpower it which only leads to disaster. That is how we stepped away from the romance in the first place.
I look forward to seeing my sons romance their future wives with their knowledge of this beautiful diversity. Perhaps love will happen over a first bite into a Thessaloniki Tomato, or perhaps it will happen with their first sip of Pineapple Sage Sun Tea. This is the greatest gift that I can give my sons, the ability to romance their future family around the dinner table for the rest of their lives. This gift of heirloom gardening, this is truly romantic living at its finest!
In their book, The Heirloom Life Gardener, Jere and Emilee Gettle talk about the importance of diversity in our food production and how so few people are either willing or able to save our rich ancestral past. Those who can really need to pass these traditions on to their children and future generations. This history is just far too rich to leave to fate.
My sons were taken with how Jere Gettle has traveled the world in search of rare seeds and is trying to save this amazing rich international culture of small farming that is disappearing not only in our own country but all over the world. The more a country 'develops' the less romantic the living is. In other words, the quality of life plummets as a country gains in status. Small farms are sacrificed, food diversity is lost and then previously rural people are forced into an urban situation and to survive become dependent on a only a few food species that sometimes come from thousands of miles away. My sons, thank heavens, have chosen to go against the flow of modern culture to preserve the past. If they choose to travel and find heirloom seeds to save as well, I will be most excited and give them overwhelming support!
The Gettle family also helped to found the National Heirloom Exposition. I have not been able to go as yet, but this is something I desperately want to do in the future! I would love to be around so many other people that believe in healthy food, biodiversity, and the benefits of hard work. People willing to work hard to make sure that our glorious history of food is not lost due to a few peoples greed and many peoples ignorance. People who understand the romance of dew on the garden in early morning and who appreciate the beauty of the last ray of sun at the end of a hard day's work. Martha Stewart even happily encourages people to love heirlooms as this video beautifully portrays.
Living romantically, really, living with quality and seeing the romance in everyday living can be hard work. However, I will choose this life far above dependence on a broken system. My garden is romantic, my dinner table is romantic, my quality of life is very, very romantic. I hope that you will include the romance of heirlooms into your life and in turn share the beauty of romantic living with others!
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