Life on my balcony this summer is going to be sweet this year, I guarantee it. Why you ask? Because I will be growing strawberries! lol, bad joke, I know. But it was a great intro to this post, and technically true. I, Jessi Fine, have decided to become an urban gardener. For the past few years, ever since I have had my own condo and my own balcony, I have been growing small flower plants and a few fresh herbs. The benefits to this were pretty obvious to me; something pretty and colorful to brighten up my otherwise dull balcony, and a more economical way to enjoy fresh herbs on my cooking creations throughout the summer.
Over the winter, my boyfriend and I have really gotten into watching documentaries. We switched off our cable TV, and turned on our Netflix, and have not gone back since. (There WILL be an entry to explain THAT story soon…if I remember) Anywhoo, we spent the better part of December and January watching food documentaries, Food Inc. in particular. Let me tell you, we were horrified. I mean, we had always known that fast food was bad for us, but to discover that even our healthy fresh produce was being tampered with on a such an extreme level sent shivers down my spine. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, then you need to watch Food Inc, and all the other amazing documentaries that Netflix offers for only $9.99 a month. (No, they didn’t pay me to say that, I actually LOVE LOVE my Netflix and tell everyone I know to use it.) Our food is being loaded up with hormones, and antibiotics, and being altered on a genetic level to grow faster, bigger, and produce earlier. Our farmed food is being kept in horrible, deplorable conditions that have result in E-coli poisoning, dying and sick animals, and massive food calls around the world. Nearly everything we eat is being altered on a significant level at the cost of the health of millions of people.
Becoming an informed citizen inspired me to do my part. Between watching these documentaries, and reading informed literature, there’s several things you can do as a single person to help offset these massive issues. One is to visit Farmers Markets ( which I have already been a fan of for years, as their produce is fresher, and usually organically grown with little to no pesticide.) There are a few Farmers Markets located around my area, and I’m fortunate enough to live a close drive to The St. Lawrence Market, one of the world’s TOP rated. I try as often as possible to choose local beef, lamb, and chicken that’s organically raised on farms a short distance from where I live, and I try to buy locally grown produce I know has a smallish carbon footprint. Best of all, my hubby is Italian, and both his parents and grandparents have gardens on their properties that supply us with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, squash, onions, eggplant, fresh herbs, pears, and more all summer long right into fall.
I was super excited for the spring this year, because I wanted to try my hand at actually growing some of my own fruits and veggies too! As per usual, my herb garden this year includes rosemary, thyme, dill, both regular and italian parsley (I’m slightly addicted), tarragon, & mint (FYI mint comes in a huge variety of flavours, one year I had orange, chocolate, lemon & regular mint!). I also have 4 different types of basil – lemon, italian, thai, and purple (I LOVE basil). If you’re looking to start your own garden, I highly recommend trying out different varieties of the same herb, as you get different flavour combinations and each adds its own special touch to various recipes. To expand on this, I decided this year to also grow strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and a fig tree! ( The tree was totally an unexpected random purchase, I’ve never grown figs – but my in-laws are experts and I figure why not try something before giving up on it first) I still want to add more, but need to hold off as I’m running out of space!! My only downfall to living on the balcony, otherwise I would have bought a few more baby trees!
** A note on this – if you ARE planning to do a little balcony gardening yourself – Congrats! Its super easy, and fun – and aside from the obvious benefit of fresh produce, it’s also a great way to get a bit of exercise, and it’s just good food for the soul. I get a great sense of achievement and pride every time I take a bite of anything I grow myself. Knowing that I’m reducing my carbon footprint, contributing to a greener tomorrow AND avoiding eating GMO pesticide laden fruit makes my soul feel alive, and hey, they say a gardener lives longer!