Our friend Wing recently sent us a copy of Victory Garden Manual that he found while antiquing in Sellwood. Published in 1943, its author James Burdett wrote:
“At present market standards have nothing to do with tenderness, flavor, or the nutritional qualities of fresh vegetables. They are concerned only with appearance and are based on preference of buyers, which in turn show ignorance of the points which should control the selection of these important foods.”
This may sound like a common contemporary cry: our food system has shifted to place priority on the durability and appearance of produce, rather than quality and freshness. We’re removed from the roots of our food. Burdett, wary of this growing distance, saw a clear solution—one that he had seen flourish during World War I—Victory Gardens.
As expected of a 67-year old book, sexism rears it’s head (i.e. the woman in the “kitchen department,” and the “husband gardener” may have trouble seeing eye to eye when planning a garden), and misguided ideas of pest management (“cover the plants with a vapor of lethal liquid”), but, Burdett’s cry to “never abandon a practice which gives so much of exercise, recreation and good health to all who follow it,” strike the same chords we sing today.
So, once again, let’s heed Burdett’s call. In the name of our patriotic victory gardenin’ predecessors, it’s never too late to propagate a plot of your own. Do it for your well being, do it for fun, do it for Fourth of July?
Here are some recent and regional recommendations to get you started:
Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon
Seattle Tilth's Maritime Northwest Garden Guide by Carl Elliot and Robert Peterson