I was just reading Bob Flowerdew's book "The No Work Garden" and he made an interesting point that fits well with permaculture - he said if it's the same amount of effort (or less) to establish a fruiting plant than a vegetable, and your family is more likely to eat/appreciate fruit than vegetables, then that's where you should concentrate your efforts. He claims the fruit has about as much nutritional value, which I had a problem with at first, but then when you think about the antioxidants, etc in fruit it could be a good point, plus organic fruit is pretty expensive in the store!
He said plants you labor over that you don't eat represent time wasted and asked as an example how many people grow radishes and then how many actually eat them. LOL!
My only critique is that there are some vegetables my kids LOVE straight from the garden (peas, asparagus) that just don't taste as good from the store. But they'd rather do without the buggy lettuce and holy kale, paranoid about finding a worm or bug in their food.
So when you plan the garden, you must ask yourself is it a good use of your time in the grand picture, or is some of the stuff you'll be growing only a "hobby" use of your time, as in, you grow it for personal satisfaction tho it contributes little to the menu of the family.
I look at all labour in the garden that way. But remember, there are benefits to things you don't eat, even if they are edible. They are organic mater and just because you don't eat them doesn't mean other things aren't (worms, fungi, etc.). Just like in the ocean NOTHING goes to waste... but it is our effort we are talking about, right?
So to this I wouldn't say that it wasn't a waste of effort that you grew all this stuff that didn't get eaten, it's that some of that effort would better have been spent seeking people in the area who WOULD eat it! If you plant 8 zucchini in April for a family of 4, then you just gave yourself 4 months warning that you're going to need to find somewhere to re-home all that fruit.
And more to the point, Giant pumpkins aren't for eating at all. Good luck finding a kid any age who doesn't like those!
I am also a beginner and striving for that balance, too. Except in my case, I am diabetic and controlling it entirely through diet, which means severely restricting the amount of sugars and carbs I eat. So I'm the other way 'round: not much fruit is allowed in my diet, I need more veggies. Lots of eggs and meat and leafy greens for me. But I LOVE growing pretty flowering fruit bushes & trees... sigh.
I am also growing things like beans that I know will produce *way* more than I can eat. But on the other hand, as Michael pointed out: if it fits a niche in my little ecosystem, such as the beans that help fix nitrogen in the soil or the fruit bushes that attract pollinators, then even if I don't harvest or use all the food, it's still performing a function and being useful. So IMHO it's worth the effort to cultivate it. Also, you can always harvest it anyway and give away the excess to friends & neighbors.
Location: zone 6b
posted 7 years ago
As a diabetic, you can grow nuts! Have you ever seen the red cultivars of hazelnuts? They're GORGEOUS in the landscape! The guy at Burnt Ridge picked the best colored seedlings growing under their red hazels for me one year and nobody could even guess what they were - they had an almost bronzy glow to the leaves most of the year, and were bright red in the spring and fall.
I ADORE beans! We toss them (whole) in olive oil and broil them until they start to brown. Add salt to taste and eat them like french fries. Best vegetable ever!
Back when I was dieting, I'd pick all the berries in the yard I could find in the morning and combine them into my smoothie with plain yogurt and coconut oil. The berries were to give it more flavor so I could drink it without adding sugar, and they also added a fair amount of fiber. We had blueberries, wineberries, raspberries, and black berries usually, with strawberries May through June.
Solar Station Construction Plans by Ben Peterson -- ebook