Yesterday, we bought a couple of potatoes. They’re organic. They’re cleaned and individually wrapped in a microwaveable shrink-wrap, so you can just stick them in the microwave, and you have a snack: a hot potato.
But what I found intriguing was a little tab that says: Trace me. It opens up to provide a code number and a message that says, This potato is traceable! You can track this potato all the way back to the farm.
All you had to do was to enter the code on their website. So of course I did, hoping for something like “Farmer Ed’s Potato Spread” and an address.
Alas. There was less to it than that. The code only revealed that it was a regular-sized organically-grown russet from Oregon. No back to the farm at all. I suppose it would have been something boring like “Field number 32446” anyway.
Some vegetables are a lot easier to track to their origins.
When I was in India recently, I stayed with my friends Sujata Madhok and Mukul Shukla. They’re both journalists… and more. One morning, Mukul said “You must see my kitchen garden. It’s on the roof.” I went up, expecting to see a few pots of tomato plants, and maybe a curry-leaf shrub or two.
Oh no. There were indeed a couple of tomato plants, volunteers that had hidden in the soil and popped up when conditions were right. But this was a serious effort, a mini-farm, a symphony of lettuce and cauliflower and broccoli in clay pots. The whole thing was organic; they were improving the soil with compost made in an old bathtub ripped out after a remodel. (The other bathtubs had become beds to grow more vegetables.)
The terrace was up three ladder-like staircases. Fortunately, water was pumped to roof tanks, so it didn’t involve hauling water up. But all the pots and soil were carried up there.[Edited to Add: In comments, Sujata said, “Our driver-turned-gardener Ramchander does much of the hard work on this impromptu farm.” ]
A clothes line with a few clothes-pegs attached testified to the multiple uses of the space.
“This used to be a great party terrace,” their daughter said, rather regretfully. Like many teenagers, she didn’t look that impressed with her parents’ achievements. Her friend was more appreciative, and took Mukul up on an offer to help herself to the organic lettuce for a cool salad.