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Gardening Tips: The question of homegrown or store-bought

January 18, 2019 10:09 am Updated: January 18, 2019 10:10 am

 

There was a time in the ‘60s and ‘70s when “homegrown” meant that the pot you were talking about was probably grown in someone’s back yard and was very likely of inferior quality to “store-bought.” Today, pot is being legally grown in many states, including New York, for medical or recreational use. “Store-bought” pot in those days meant that it was probably grown in Mexico, Columbia, Panama, or perhaps the exotic “Thai stick” from Southeast Asia. Regardless of where it came from, “store-bought” was always considered far superior to “homegrown.”

In the two decades that preceded the ‘60s, most of the food Americans really wanted to eat was also grown elsewhere by others and “homegrown” food was something that poor people had to eat, not by choice, but by necessity. By the mid ‘60s, supermarket food was generally considered superior to what you could produce yourself. Market food offered a variety of items that could not be produced at home. Frozen or canned, orange juice allowed people from New Jersey to drink a healthy beverage from a fruit that could not be grown in New Jersey. Bananas, fresh citrus, coffee, beef, pork, chicken, cold cuts and the like were readily available to anyone who could pay for them. We felt sorry for the really poor people who were forced to eat home canned beans, pickles, sauerkraut and other vegetables.

Today, things are different and many people are willing to pay far more for “homegrown” food than “store-bought.” Local food, especially “organic” is considered far better tasting, safer and healthier than “store-bought.” The official warnings about eating produce such as Romaine lettuce, has enhanced these perceptions. Supermarket food is now generally considered inferior to “homegrown,” at least to those who can afford to pay for what poor people had no money to buy a few decades ago.

It is interesting to note that the same thing is happening now with many medicines. As recently as the 1950s, the vast majority of prescription drugs were made from plants or from chemicals derived directly from plants. The first “miracle” antibiotic was penicillin, discovered by accident when Alexander Fleming, returning to his lab after a vacation, noticed that some Petri dishes had been contaminated by a blue mold and the mold seemed to be killing bacteria he was growing in the Petri dishes. Most of us over 60 years old have seen that common mold many times on stale bread in our youth. Today’s “store-bought” bread is treated with preservatives and many kids today have never seen penicillin mold as a result. As was the case with supermarket food, synthetic pharmaceuticals soon replaced botanicals and were widely considered far superior.

Most herbal medicines that our grandparents made themselves were dismissed as inferior to the modern drugs. “Free” medicine was relegated to the same inferior status as “homegrown” food. Wild herbs cannot be patented and pharmaceutical companies needed to make money for research and development of still more synthetic drugs. Many herbal remedies were dismissed as ineffective, dangerous or unsafe. Despite generations of use, many herbs were considered “untested” and therefore potentially dangerous. I find it a bit ironic when I see TV ads for drugs that list possible side effects that include death, while herbs such as ginseng, with a 2,000-year history of safe use is distrusted because “no one knows the long term possible side effects” of using it. Really? The fact that almost half the people on this planet have safely used this plant for more than 2,000 years is dismissed in favor of synthetic drugs with documented side effects that might include death?

Which brings me back to pot. According to the federal government, pot is a schedule 1 drug. Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.”

Thirty-three states have now legalized marijuana either for medical use, or for recreational use, yet the federal government, now mired in a shutdown that benefits no one, still considers it a schedule 1 drug. “Store bought” marijuana is now one of the best-selling medicines in America, yet this plant is easily grown. I wonder if “homegrown” pot will become as popular as “homegrown” food someday? Laws need to be changed for that to happen and we all see how effective Washington is at getting things done.

Reach Bob Beyfuss at rlb14@cornell.edu.