When I was in college in New York City, a friend once told me that she thought I had an unhealthy obsession with the state I grew up. I think she was being facetious. But the truth is that I did talk about Vermont a lot. My upbringing seemed extraordinary and I was proud and painfully nostalgic for it. “We have a vegetable garden the size of this city block!” I would brag. And despite my fondness for my home state, I never saw myself returning there. And because of my experiences as a child, the thought of having a vegetable garden always seems like something for which you had to have ten acres of land and a tractor. It turns out that’s not the case at all.
I figured this out while volunteering with a group of chefs, farmers and volunteers from the restaurant Lucques where I work. I have been spending Thursday mornings with third graders at a public school in East LA . We built and planted a vegetable garden and every week our chef Suzanne Goin does a cooking demonstration to inspire and teach the kids how to make delicious healthy food. The vegetable gardens were built on a small area of concrete outside of the school. We built three wooden frames, laid plastic on the ground in them, spread gravel on top of that and filled them with soil. And it occurred to me, anyone can grow their on vegetables! You don’t need lots of land and a beautiful landscape. You just need a small area that gets a bit of sunlight.
I was thrilled when I realized that I too, could grow my own vegetables. I thought back to my parents when I was a kid going to the seed store every spring and sharing the task of planting our magnificent garden. I loved to help them. The sugar snap peas were always the first to come, then the cherry tomatoes. I would eat them off of the vine like candy. Here in Los Angeles, we’re lucky that we can plant year round. We’ve started with carrots, radishes, beets, early girl tomatoes, sage, parsley, and chives. I encourage you to start your garden now wherever you are. It will take care and maintenance, but it’s so fun to watch it grow. And before long, we’ll be bringing our homegrown bounty into the kitchen!