An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of February 23, 2009
issued from the woods near Natchez, Mississippi, USA

EATING GREEN

The mustard green seedlings in my coldframe are barely big enough to eat. Some afternoons I go thin them, tossing tops of thinned-out plants into a bowl. Later I crack an egg into the bowl, mix, and fry the green, sticky mass into a kind of omelet paddy that browns up nicely and tastes great when spritzed with vinegar and slipped between slabs of hot, moist cornbread. I love the sharp mustard taste, somehow complementary to the cornbread's mellow, baked-corn flavor.

The experience is satisfying from another perspective, too. Each day when I peel back the coldframe's plastic sheet and see those mustard-green seedlings green against the black earth, their heads flat against the sun for maximum exposure, I'm struck by the impression that the seedlings are little solar receptors. Upon germination the first thing the plant had done was to deploy its solar cells, its first two leaves or cotyledons, and now that the seed's stored energy is exhausted the plant has gone 100% solar, gathering sunlight energy and storing it among the bonds of its body's carbohydrate molecules.

When I eat the greens I transfer solar energy stored among the seedlings' carbohydrate molecules into my own body. The energy equation for that is:

SUN --> MUSTARD GREEN PLANT --> ME

I like being part of such a simple, sustainable, non- taxable, not-subject-to-inflation or -depression, profoundly dependable and powerful formula. I like "eating green" both in its literal and figurative senses. I like knowing that my thoughts, my movement, everything about me, keeps going because of sunlight energy, with not much standing between the energy source and me.

In the old days, even people who ate animal flesh had simple energy formulas, something like:

SUN --> GRASS --> COW --> HUMAN

Of course nowadays most people's food-energy formulas bristle with energy inputs from petrochemical-based fertilizers and pesticides, and the energy needed for processing, packaging and transportation. We've structured our society so that it's cheaper to eat unhealthy processed foods from far away, made with enormous energy consumption and waste, than to eat nutritious foods grown locally with sustainable methods.

However, whatever the realities of infrastructure, politics and society, it's a beautiful fact that anyone, anytime, can simplify his or her food-energy formula. For instance, a garden or just a coldframe in the backyard can help a lot and so can preparing your own meals. Simply refusing to eat anything that's obviously overly processed and with too much packaging helps. Anyone, anytime, can stop being one way, and start being another, and I with my nicely browned, mustard-green omelet-paddy on hot, moist, campfire cornbread can tell you that taking a step toward "eating green" feels good. Facebook Icon.