They say there's no such thing as a free lunch.
They are sooo wrong. There is one. It is absolutely free, it's everywhere and we all learned about it in fifth grade. Its called photosynthesis!
Now before you roll your eyes and go check your Facebook page, consider the following excerpt from Second Nature, Michael Pollan's fine treatise on gardening, which he wrote before the Omnivore's Dilemma made him the prophet of the local food movement.
The first person to verify that indeed this is a miracle was a seventeenth-century Flemish scientist by the name of Van Helmont. He planted a willow sapling in a container that held 200 pounds of soil and, for five years, gave it nothing but water. At the end of that time, the tree was found to weigh 169 pounds, and the soil 199 pounds, 14 ounces - From just two ounces of soil had come 169 pounds of tree.
Pollan's relays this story after considering the giant, warty Sibley squash he planted from seed in May and harvested in October. It took nothing from anyone but water, air, sunlight and time and here's the best part: Pollan ate it. He may have even fed his family with it.
Herein lies the miracle of agriculture and it's so simple we miss it three times a day. Through photosynthesis, plants take air and sunlight and turn it into food for us.
If that isn't the quintessential free lunch, what is? May 13, 2010