Gardening has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, thanks to the same Dad who made sure annual camping trips, driveway hockey, canoeing, and remote controlled trains were part of the lives of his 5 daughters. Whether I wanted to or not, I was out there weeding and picking when the times were right, and definitely enjoying the fruits of what little labour I did. He began teaching my daughter the seriousness of the business at a young age, as you can see.
Growing up, my mom took care of the flower gardens while my dad took care of the fruit trees and vegetable garden, everything from kiwi, plums and cherries to corn, aspargus and ornamental gourds. As one who is allergic to pollen, I followed after my dad, and my mother-in-law now takes care of our flower gardens and I only really take an interest in the vegetable garden.
Last year was our first “full plant” of our own vegetable garden, finally going beyond an herb box nailed to the side of a rented house. There is something so satisfying about baking with your own rhubarb and zucchini, crunching your own garden carrots, and enjoying your own fresh green beans.
At the same time, there is an immense amount to learn about gardening. Carl raves about the small new potatoes my mom used to serve him regularly, so we’re going to try to grow some of our own this year, and already I’m hearing all kinds of amazing tips and tricks to get the most out of your potatoes. With any gardening, there are issues with when to plant, proper soil and crop rotations, ideal spacing, and so many other factors.
All this makes me wonder about the settlers who moved here carrying a few packets of seeds, seeds no doubt unused to the Canadian climate and soil, who had to grow enough in a relatively short growing season to feed themselves and their families through a harsh, long winter. I have little doubt I would never have survived that first winter in a log cabin, with no internet to give me gardening tips or convenient how-tos on fashioning my husband’s shirts into effective winter coats, and the nearest neighbour miles away on horseback, were I lucky enough to have a horse.
I’m so thankful for the opportunity to garden as a hobby, where failure doesn’t mean starvation, just a trip to the grocery store. We live in such a richly blessed country, and a backyard with space for a garden is further evidence of our abundance. Canada remains a harsh climate in many areas, but somehow we have figured it out, know how to live with it, and can make an incredible variety of foods grow despite it. God continues to send his rain in season, his sun in it’s time, and we continue to be blessed with an abundance of food on our table. May developing countries be given these same blessings, from amenable weather to knowledge of best growing practices to safe and consistent means of distribution, as there is no reason anyone on this planet should be going hungry today.
Do you have any garden plans this year? Did you grow up gardening, or come to it later? What’s your favourite garden vegetable where the store’s version just can’t compare?
This post is part of the Canadian Food Experience Project, begun in June 2013, through which we as participants share our collective stories through our regional food experiences and food memories, in hopes of bringing global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity. We’d love to hear what Canadian food means to you!