A tradition of gardening runs in the family
Being a locavore isn't new. This writer's family has been gardening and eating local for generations. Plus, enjoy a recipe for pickled beets.
How to keep a holiday topiary alive
Christmas decorating with snowballs from the garden
The balance of light in the garden
Green in the winter garden
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I have to laugh because long before all of these things were your basic home gardeners. I come from a line of gardeners on both sides of the family -- my Italian grandparents who immigrated to this country and my German-Hungarian grandparents who made it here as well.
Gardens were necessities
My Italian grandfather, Rosario Scalise, planted a large garden in a lot next to the house where they lived with their eight children, one son-in-law, one grandchild, and Rosario’s father and mother. While part it may have been for pleasure, it really was necessary in order to feed his family.
He also built a bread oven, and people in the Italian neighborhood would bring their dough for baking and pay with what little money they had or traded bread for vegetables. A garden was important, for families, especially during the Depression, in order to just survive.
The German-Hungarian grandparents, Johann and Johanna, settled in a small community called Swissvale, just outside the city limits of Pittsburgh. There they built a house large enough for them, their four children and Johanna’s mother and brother. Because they had the only house on the block, they were able to grow a large amount of vegetables on the unoccupied lots for several years.
To help bring money in, my dad, Ernie, and his brother Charlie were sent out every day during harvest season to sell vegetables throughout the neighborhood. Everything they sold was organic since manure was about the only fertilizer and soil amendment available to them.
Not far away was old man Horrock’s farm. He was always called that even though he was a young man then. He just passed away a few years ago at the age of 103!
The farm's land has long since become lots for homes so I never really knew about the farm until one day I called the mother of a classmate because it was reunion time. Mrs. McGuire had lived in Swissvale all her life. She told me stories about my grandmother and how when she was a little girl, her mother would give her a paper bag and a dime to go to Horrock’s farm and fill up the bag with vegetables.
Imagine a bag of vegetables now for just a dime!
Fun for kids
My family lived with my dad’s mother. One year my grandmother fertilized her garden since no one else had done that. It turned out that my mother had done the same as well, as had my dad, since no one ever told anyone else of their fertilization. By the end of summer, the tomato plants looked more like Jack’s beanstalk. Because I was so little, they sent me into find the zucchini and tomatoes. It was like a jungle paradise for me.
At home in our garden, my grandmother grew tomatoes, beans, peppers, and carrots. When I would play outside, I used to sneak a carrot out of the ground, wash it off with water from the hose, and bite into a carrot that was so sweet, it was almost like candy instead of a vegetable. So addicting was that flavor, that to this day I eat only raw carrots for their crispness and sweetness.