“Eat what’s on your plate.” We all probably heard some variation of that when we were growing up. Children don’t get to do the household menu planning, and that is a good thing.
But eventually we were on our own and free to eat whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Instead of being required to just eat what’s on our plates, we could eat nothing but our favorite foods if we liked. That is a privilege I recall abusing frequently when I was in college.
When we began gardening we grew only the foods we liked to eat. We were beginning homesteaders, trying to become more food self-reliant. We weren’t growing for market then, so we didn’t plant anything we didn’t want to eat ourselves.
Despite growing up in the rural South, I never had okra, grits or sweet tea until I left home. They just weren’t part of our household food culture, even though they were staples of our larger community. After we started growing okra here I asked my mother why we never ate it when I was growing up. She said it just wasn’t something they ever had in their gardens in her family. Why not, I asked. She answered that they never grew or ate okra because her father didn’t like it. If he didn’t like something, then they didn’t grow it.
Of course there’s no reason to waste garden space on something you know you’re not going to like. We’ve never grown butter beans for example (better known to most people as “lima beans”), since neither Cherie nor I like them. But having said that, I also think it’s important not to be too rigid about that practice. Neither Cherie nor I liked black-eyed peas as children, so I didn’t plant any for several years. But eventually I grew some primarily as a summer cover crop. We tried them and discovered that our grown-up selves loved them now. They’ve since become a significant part of our garden plan.
Nowadays we try to add a few new things to the gardens every year as experiments. We’ve discovered some great new (to us) foods that way. Our experiments with Asian veggies eventually led us to add an entire garden of them. If we had never ventured beyond the things we already knew we liked, we would’ve missed out on some delicious veggies.
We’re in the process of planning our 2015 gardens. In addition to all the things we’ve already come to love, we’re looking forward to adding some new things as well.