Two summers ago, when the FDA issued a massive tomato recall over fears of widespread salmonella contamination, I said to my husband, "Wow. It's a good thing we're growing our own tomatoes."
This week, when I heard that 25 states had issued lettuce recalls as a consequence of several people being seriously sickened by lettuce contaminated with E. coli, I said to my husband, "Wow. It's a good thing we decided this year to grow our own lettuce."
Several summers ago, when I grew my first tiny homegrown tomato crop, I confess — I felt a little nervous about biting into that first ripe red fruit from my own garden. After all, I was new, a total amateur at this gardening thing. I wasn't sure I really knew what I was doing. What if my tomatoes had bugs inside them? What if there was something wrong with the soil? What if my pots had lead in them?
As I stood for a moment anxiously contemplating all the possible things that could be wrong with the lovely fresh tomato in my hand, I suddenly realized how absurd my feeling of nervousness was. I bought tomatoes at the supermarket every week without knowing what the growing conditions had been where they had come from, or how many hands had touched them along the way. And I ate those mystery tomatoes without a second thought.
Yet here I had in my hand the product of a plant I had personally watched over and cared for daily from seed to fruit, and I was actually nervous that something might be wrong?
It's amazing to me now, to consider how easily I used to take for granted my unquestioning trust in mass-produced fruits and vegetables from the supermarket, and how equally ready I was, once to doubt my own ability to grow safe food. I often wonder how many other Americans who grew up on store-bought, processed food would be more nervous about biting into a homegrown tomato just picked from a yard than a canned tomato processed halfway around the world.
I'm grateful, this week, that I got past my own hypocrisy on food safety, and found the confidence to grow my own lettuce.