The Edible Schoolyard is all about food and people’s relationship to food. Learning to nourish oneself is a fundamental part of everyone’s experience as a child-a journey that continues into adulthood. What better place to learn than spending time in the natural world every day seeing the tomatoes turn red or gold, smelling the basil and rosemary as you brush against it, hearing the crisp sound of a ripe Asian pear as you bite into it, feeling the muscadine grape burst as your teeth break the thick skin, and tasting the sweet nectar of a honeysuckle bloom?
Until the early 1800s, the bulk of a person’s diet was eaten in the form of fresh, dried, salted or pickled foods. Only people who lived in cold enough climates could reliably freeze food to preserve it. Canning foods came about in the Napoleonic era when a Frenchman named Nicolas Appert figured out that heating and sealing food in glass jars preserved them in a similar way to bottling wine, although it would be decades before Louis Pasteur could demonstrate that microorganisms spoiled food that was not properly canned. Tin can canning came along in the early 1800s, followed by the invention of the can opener. It took almost another hundred years before Clarence Birdseye and company invented commercially frozen food. Canning, freezing, packaging and transport of food is a relatively new invention in human history, but it is no substitute for the real deal-freshly picked food, straight from the source to your mouth. No amount of chemical engineering can trick your mouth or your body into accepting a strawberry flavoring as a substitute for a real, ripened in the field, delicious, red to the core strawberry. Plant some and see for yourself next spring!