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The Green Life: Return of the Victory Garden

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July 28, 2008

Return of the Victory Garden

Tomatoes_in_hand_istock_00000604151 Chalk up another victory for local, sustainable food:  Slow Food Nation's Victory Garden is growing strong on the lawn of San Francisco's Civic Center. Named after WWII-era victory gardens, the project is designed to provide a community food source.

Encouraged by the U.S. government to plant gardens to combat food shortages, ordinary Americans produced between 30 and 40 percent of the country's vegetables during the 1940s.

San Francisco's newest victory garden was planted with the help of volunteers, including the staff of Sunset magazine. Even when they're not helping Slow Food Nation plant seedlings, the folks at Sunset take local eating seriously; their "One-Block Feast" initiative transformed a backyard into a locavore's smorgasbord.

"The swell of interest in local eating," says Margo True, food editor for the magazine, "seems to be the happy manifestation of so many things:  the economy, distrust of imported food and industrialized food, better understanding of the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet, and the green movement." In tough times, edible gardens gain popularity. As silver linings go, a delicious backyard feast isn't too shabby.

Want to plant your own victory garden, but don't know how to begin? Margo True offers tips to get you started.

  • Start simple: Cherry tomatoes, zucchini, pole beans, squash, and herbs are all easy to grow--great for beginner gardeners.
  • Think small:  Don't have a yard the size of the Civic Center's lawn?  Don't worry, Sunset has suggestions for the best crops to grow in pots and instructions for building a small-space salad box.
  • Save money: "For pure economy, crops that can be preserved are the way to go, since they're more expensive and not at all local in winter," says True. Tomatoes, green beans, and fruit can be frozen, preserved, or pickled. Here's how.

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