One of the disconcerting things about industrial food production is that its methods, above all, are reductive. Go to your local grocery store even during apple season and count the types of apples you find there, for example. Is that number four, or six, or (outlandish) eight? And do you know how many types of apples are out there, fit for human consumption? I can tell you plainly that number is probably closer to eight to the eighth power (i.e., pushing 17 million) than it is to eight.
I mention this because, by growing things from seed or buying saplings from heirloom growers, our household, at least, is not beholden to the limits of Big Ag. We’ve got five different apple cultivars, and room for many, many more. Perhaps I am a bit of an oddball, but there are five different types of broccoli growing in the spring garden right now. There are six types of garlic, four types of onions, two of scallions and two of shallots, if I were simply to mention the allium family…though I am only growing one form of leek (poor neglected leeks). Each one has its purpose. I like the fact that we mix things up around here, that our biological footprint is a broad one. Like microbes, I appreciate the many.
I mention this likewise because traditional food cultures EXPECTED variety. I have a book that lists the forty-five different types of cabbages that the average French farmer or shopper would know; granted, this book was first published in the 1860s. But really. The world offers much more produce than that found in your local grocery store! Do you crave variety, but don’t have five acres? Join a CSA and get it sent to you, support your local growers, or grow your own.