What Food Gardening Gives Us

What Food Gardening Gives Us

It is the citrus season here. Walk around this neighborhood and you’ll see oranges, lemons, and grapefruit bowing down the trees. I don’t grow Seville oranges but one year I picked them off the ground near a local park where they had fallen.

I made marmalade with them.  Last weekend our neighborhood held a citrus exchange at the local school.

Knowing that there is a ready source of vitamin C just outside the door gives me a sense of security. It’s not that I could feed a family from my efforts in the garden, but I know it helps.

I learned to garden from my father. In our vegetable garden, he grew potatoes, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, beans, peas, lettuce, beets, parsley, thyme, and tomatoes. The fruit trees carried so many plums that to this day I can’t stand the taste of them. We had them stewed with a little sugar for dessert the entire month they were in season, as we did in turn with the pears and the apples we also grew. There were oranges and lemons in the winter. Dad made lemonade, and my mother and grandmother made lemon and orange cakes. For eggs, we had a ready supply from our hens.

My innate optimism comes from the underlying sense of trust in my father’s competence imbued in me. I was no rival to this competence, being his daughter, but was simply inspired by it. As a very little girl, I loved my mother reading me the “Little Golden Books.” One of the stories was about a French postmaster and his wife, their cow, and their strawberry patch. The postman was laid off from work. He threw up his hands in despair. His wife, practical as French housewives so often are, reassured him. We will make ice cream, she told him, from the cream and the strawberries, and children will come, and we will be able to make a living. So, it came about, and they all lived happily ever after. Possibly I read this tale at a period of insecurity in our lives. The story always calmed me and still does. When faced with a problem, it tells me, to slow down and think about it and the solution will come from my inner resources.

It was also a lesson about using what’s in your backyard. I’ve carried that with me all my life.