Digging in the soil, getting our hands and feet dirty, breathing in fresh air and sweating a bit could be just the medicine we need right now, writes Lance Fredericks.
IT ALWAYS seemed that Kimberley’s summer days were hotter when I was a youngster than it is now, and that the winters were colder.
I remember walking across a tarred road from school and feeling the sun heat up the upper leather of my shoes, while the hot tar scorched my soles from beneath. Oh, and if you dared stand still long enough and dug your heel into the road, you could actually dig into the sticky, molten tar.
But besides the extremes in temperature, there were other things that were different. Like sitting under a cool grapevine on a scorching day gorging yourself on grapes right off the vine. Grapes have never been sweeter.
Peaches picked straight off the tree are still far superior to any of the fruit in our stores today, and I am not saying this to stir up nostalgia – it’s science. I even think back fondly of fruit preserves back in the day. I remember seeing it in bottles on shelves, but I can’t quite remember eating it. It was always being stored for ‘one day’.
Still, it’s a fond memory.
Wait, back to the science, you see, in order to get fruit and vegetables to the supermarket shelves in its freshest condition, as well as ensuring that it has a decent shelf life, the produce has to be picked early so that it can ripen in storage and whilst in transit. But here’s the thing; fruits and vegetables – right before they completely ripen – receive a boost of flavours and sugars from the plant stock … a sugar rush, if you will. It’s the last stage in the ripening process.
I assume that if it received its full flavour boost too early, the pests would attack young crops. I also assume that the late flavour-burst gives the person who planted the crop an opportunity to get the best benefit from all his work and harvest all he can before the bugs bombard his batch.
I experienced that flavour again this past growing season, before the icy frost attacked the plants – I was too busy, too occupied to make the effort to cover the plants against the winter chill and suffered the consequences. But before the big chill, I could not understand why our tomatoes, squashes, grapefruit and other home-grown fruits and veggies were so tasty, that is, until I learned about the late flavour rush.
The simple fact seems to be that if fruit is picked too early and ripens off the vine or the tree, it will never have the flavour and dare I say quality of home-grown produce.
However, think of the convenience of going to a store to buy a punnet of peaches, grapes or other fruit. After all, who has the time to dig up a patch of ground, prepare the soil, plant seed, water and tend plants for, sometimes, four months or more?
Apparently garlic takes around seven months to grow if you plant a clove, and you’ll have to wait eight to 10 months before you can harvest ginger.
Who has the time and the energy for that?
But here’s something to consider: Psychiatrist and author Dr Timothy Jennings, back in 2018 wrote a blog where he suggested seven ways to keep your brain healthy and your mind sharp.
One of those suggestions goes: “The human body is not only physical, with fats, proteins, DNA, and various chemical reactions, but it is also electrical. And just like the body needs balanced nutrition for its physical components, so too the body needs balanced electrical processing,” Jennings writes.
He adds, “The earth is a giant electron donor that provides electrons to our bodies when we touch it. These electrons activate the body’s anti-inflammatory enzymes, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation.”
Now for the alarming bit: “Since the 1960’s,” He continues, “with modern plastics and other man-made building and paving materials and modern shoes, we have disconnected from the earth, with subsequent increased inflammation.
“So,” he suggests, “walk in the grass, wade in the ocean, ‘hug a tree,’ and touch the earth regularly!”
It appears as if growing our own fruit and veggies will not only have the benefit of filling up our refrigerator or the jars of preserves in our pantries that nobody gets to eat, but digging in the soil, getting our hands and feet dirty, breathing in fresh air and sweating a bit – or, in Kimberley, a lot – could be just the medicine we need right now.
Now there’s the motivation we’ve been looking for to get active again, and thank about it … our backyards are closer than the gym.