Ethical Self-Sufficiency
0 comment Wednesday, June 18, 2014 |
I've been considering what to grow here in the UK even though I'm from the states. Some things I have sorely missed - bison and elk and bear meat for example, and pemmican (but always needed blueberries for that). Or there's yams and sweet potatoes and black eyed peas and crayfish, stuff again I didn't think I'd see any longer. Ten or so years ago I just made do with what was here on the UK shores, but nowadays what should I find? Sweetcorn offered everywhere (thought it doesn't grow well here). Bison meat, and blueberries in the shops. I can for the first time make pemmican myself, and I can even get wild rice to put into my autumn stews.
I keep getting tempted to buy a blueberry bush, and I order my bison meat and make frybread for important times during the year but I can't help but think, as nice as it is to be able to eat a bit of Native Soul Food, it doesn't belong here. But as I'm sure many of the British populace would argue, neither do I. Still, it doesn't stop Waitrose from importing bison, elk, crayfish and blueberries en masse as it seems to be the Thing to Do right now. I was never more amused in my life than when I saw a pot of crawdaddies in Waitrose and also saw the pricetag along with it. I fished the things out of streams with a bit of bacon, for crying out loud...
Still, I cringe a bit, to be honest; there are already a lot of invading flora which are threatening the native species in the UK, Himalayan Balsam being one of the biggies. There are quite a few fruits which grow here in UK soil and nowhere else, but they're being forgotten in the crush for the latest health and growing fad - yet, no one questions the morality or sense of these foods, or whether it's sensible to eat them in such quantities when they are so new to one's diet. I remember all the panic around tofu, ginseng, and other "miracle foods" because people overindulged - and then suddenly these foods became "dangerous", rather than just acknowledge that trying to take 10 capsules of ginseng a day or switching over entirely to estrogen-laden soybeans probably wasn't going to help your system if you'd never had it before in your life. And how smart is it to claim being ethical when your soy is getting shipped from halfway cross the planet?
I am a great proponent of not just eating locally, but culturally: I am not from the Fry-Up Culture, and when I tried to live on a primarily English diet I became incredibly ill with gallbladder attacks and all sorts of other issues. I never have done the "chippy run" and doubt I could ever do. I just cannot eat the things the English eat on a regular basis. But then at the same time I would expect an English person would have a hard time digesting corn in quantity, or wild rice, yams, or peanuts as much as my family tends to do. I've had to come to grips with the fact that these foods are part of my genetic makeup and to veer too wildly from them does actually put my health at risk. I cannot digest cows milk very well so I have to be careful, or drink goat's milk - just like nearly every member of my father's family. I have to be sure to get increased iodine in my diet, just like nearly every member of my mother's family. So it goes. These are things I can control with supplements or if needs must buy the stuff from markets or suppliers.
But when it comes to growing things myself, I can't help but think whilst we may be growing these in a pot on our patios and therefore able to curb the roots from spreading everywhere, there's no law that says a bird can't eat the berries and then excrete the seeds out somewhere else where they might take hold and run rampant. Blueberries aren't native to this country but if they're in the right soil, they can be as insidious as bramble. I had a similar conversation recently when I discovered a native-herbs company was importing mesquite. Mesquite is a desert plant and is very small as a result, but if you put it in wet growing conditions, it can get upwards to 30 feet high, stealing moisture out of the ground and killing everything beneath its canopy for yards around it. I'm not sure they were even aware of it, but it can rapidly go rampant. That's the sort of thing I worry about.
But at the same time, due to more and more limitations in my diet I'm finding that "eat local" just doesn't help me very much; if I stick to eating boiled greens and root veg all winter, I run a serious risk to my health. It's why I chose ages ago to eat a bit more traditionally as per my cultural background (which is rather varied, I admit!). So I can either grow it myself or I can pay extortionate amounts of money to have the stuff shipped in.
Argh, quandaries.
I'm still not sure how I feel about having a blueberry bush or two outside, even in a pot. I tend to cook the stuff in stews and muffins, but I've now got several tayberries (a hybrid which hasn't been around long, and therefore suffers from the same problem IMO) and raspberries I can do that with. Would two blueberry bushes really be such a big problem? Or is that how things start - thinking "one won't do any harm", but if everyone thinks the same thing, suddenly there's just too much of it?
I guess, as much as I enjoy blueberries, and there's a lot to recommend them, I think I'll try and work with what I've got - loads of strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, apples, pears, cherries and mulberries. On the New Year when I always feel the need to have a proper Native feast with stew and frybread, I'll indulge and buy a pack of blueberries for myself. But otherwise, I think I can manage without.

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