Our food system generates a lot of food waste. Recent estimates suggest that up to 40% of the food grown for human consumption is never eaten.
That does not mean that households are throwing out 40% of the produce they purchase; that figure is much lower (14%). It also includes waste along the supply chain, including when farmers plow under mature crops based upon commodity prices, waste from spoilage during transportation, damaged produce thrown out at supermarkets, and restaurants tossing uneaten entrees.
At Farmscape we grow a lot of diverse crops, but for the most part we keep things pretty tame. While we have a phenomenal selection of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash, our crop guide shies away from the truly bizarre, unless of course our customers request it.
Confession time: those of us on staff at Farmscape truly relish growing strange crops. Or at least I do. To give my passion for the weird a proper outlet, I've decided to start a new feature for Farmscape blog, which I'm calling "Edible Oddities."
Over the past couple weeks, I've been reading Small Plot High Yield Gardening by Sal Gilbertie and Larry Sheehan. The authors operate a nursery, and the following anecdote about the Victory Garden movement stood out to me.
In the Victory Garden days, when more people gardened and did so in greater volume, we sold tomatoes in 16" x 24" cedar flats containing 108 seedlings. That was the minimum order, and my father developed tremendous muscles in his forearms from carrying the heavy flats around two at a time...Nowadays our "volume" market pack is down to 12 plants--and many gardeners can't find room for that many.
As Farmscape's total number of gardens has increased, we've grown accustomed to large plant orders, but 108 tomatoes per household still seems insane. If you plant tomatoes using extremely dense packing, that's 338 square feet devoted just to tomatoes! It's common to receive 15-20 pounds of fruit per plant, meaning that the expected yield from a minimum purchase of tomatoes was over 1500 pounds. No wonder everyone knew how to can.
The statistic that Americans grew 40% of the nations food supply in victory gardens during World War II has always left me awestruck, but this quote drove home for me what that looks like in practice. If nothing else, the details of the victory garden movement are extremely humbling. As proud as I am of what Farmscape has accomplished thus far, we've got a long way to go before we're growing food at the rate that our grandparents did.
Plants in the cabbage family, also known as brassica, are an important part of Southern California Winter gardens. Brassica family members such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are the namesake for a common winter pest: the cabbage looper.
The cabbage looper is the larval stage of an innocuous looking grey moth. In your garden, they appear as small green worms that munch holes in your brassica plants and greens. Loopers are easy to identify by their distinctive way of moving. The worms move slowly by curving their back into a half-oval as they move their back legs forward, creating a small arch.