Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What is food security?

I've been writing this blog for a while, but I've never really given a definition to  "food security".  I suppose it means different things to different people, but whatever it is, it's the opposite of being food insecure.  Agencies that track hunger try to monitor food insecurity, which they define as not having enough food today, or not having enough food to last out the week or the month.  Along that line, I will tentatively define food security as having available foods on hand to be able to cook up a meal.  Maybe not if a dozen guests drop in unannounced, but enough for the members of the household for the foreseeable future. 

And how do you ensure that there is enough food on hand?  I can think of two alternatives: (1) the warehouse solution, where your pantry is well stocked with grains, beans, pasta, canned goods, etc., or (2) the food forest solution, where everything growing around your residence is an edible plant of one type or another.  The Mormons are great boosters of the former solution, and recommend that each Mormon household have a year's worth of provisions in the pantry.  While I like to have a well-stocked cupboard, if it is stocked by trips to Costco or Sam's Club, it is not as sustainable as the latter solution, having food for the gathering right outside the door. 

If you want to evaluate your food security, you need to do more than to just count up the boxes of mac'n'cheese and packages of ramen noodles in the pantry.  You need to take stock of all the edible plants that are within foraging distance.  I've made a spreadsheet where I have taken account of all the edible plant species that I have access to.  At last count, I was up to 126 species.  Some are perennial crops I grow (figs, apples, strawberries), some are annuals (cilantro, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers), some are weeds that are naturalized here (henbit, dock, dandelions, chanca piedra), and some I don't even grow on my property. 

I have no kudzu, but there are plenty of places I can go and cut it.  I've been feeding it to the chickens and guinea pigs for a while, but today was the first time I actually tasted it.  With the rain we have been having, there were some nice, big, young leaves, and I had to satisfy my curiosity -- why is it the guinea pigs' favorite food?  It tastes like spinach, maybe a little blander.  I suppose you could cook it as you would any leafy green, but it is going to need something to give it some flavor.  The bottom line?  No one in the South should be food insecure, not with all the kudzu we have.  I know that Japanese cuisine makes use of starch obtained from the root of the kudzu, but I have not seen much in the way of recipes for the leaves.  Perhaps I should research this. 

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