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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rogue Purslane and Food Price Insulation


Everywhere I look, I see reports of anticipated increases in food prices once again.  As you probably recall, food prices spiked when the price of oil (and therefore, gas) made transportation costs increase, and it seems that manufacturers and retailers largely never got around to bringing prices back to normal levels once their cost of inputs decreased.  Funny how that often works.  And now, weather related difficulties are piling on, and we are getting warnings of yet another set of increases.  (Temporary, I'm sure.....)

So yet again, let me encourage you to insulate yourselves a bit from these price increases and grow some of your own food.

Above you see the pot of spinach I started about a month ago; it has also sprouted what I believe is some rogue purslane that I seeded into this pot and never saw sprout until this round of seed-starting.  (There, I've admitted it:  sometimes I'm not real diligent about emptying my pots, washing and conditioning them, and starting afresh with each crop.)  This pot of greens is pretty happily sitting on the sun porch now that the temperatures have moderated a bit, and I should have some spinach leaves in 3-4 weeks.  A small pot like this won't give me dinner-sized salads, but I'll have a few leaves at a time for sandwich toppings and to put in ricotta for a nice filling for lasagna. 

So here's your self-sufficiency task for the day:  Go get some seed for your favorite greens, whether they be spinach and curly-leafed lettuce, or a more exotic green like my purslane or some Swiss chard.  Be as frugal or fancy as you like; I don't care if you spend $2 a pack at the grocery store seed rack or order $5 organic seed.  You will save money regardless.

Take your favorite pot, fill it with soil (or my favorite, finished compost), and plant away.  Put in a sunny window, and in about 6 weeks (depending on light level and temperature), you should have one less item to put on your grocery list every week.  Take charge of your food, and you will take charge of your budget.

The Analysis

Fast:  As I've explained, many gardening projects are very quick.  This should take a few minutes.

Cheap:  You'll probably average about $3 for pack of seeds, and these seeds will yield much more than that would buy in the grocery.  Choose a "cut and come again" (meaning you can cut leaves and they will re-grow) variety of greens to get the biggest harvest. 

Good:  This is self-sufficiency at its most simple and satisfying.  I want to see a pot of greens on every windowsill!
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