Skip to main content

My Mother's Garden

I'm digressing a wee bit here again, but I feel it's well worth it. Today is my mom's birthday. I won't say her exact age as I think she wouldn't appreciate that much, but she's in her early seventies and doesn't look a day over 60. She's one of those super spry older women - out doing her own yardwork, gardening and canning, chairing committees at church, fixing random things around the house - that we all hope to be.

It is in my mother's garden that I got my first taste of caring for the land. I remember planting corn with her using a rusty old hand plow, and being firmly told that I could NOT eat those seeds. (I must have tried or had that look on my face of wanting to try.) It was there I saw my first tomato hornworm, and watched while my mother threw it out of the garden to fend for itself. (I still practice this unless a really hungry looking chicken is walking by.) Here I met zinnias and cosmos and immediately fell in love. She introduced me to rhubarb, squash, potato plants, sweet peppers, marigolds, cucumbers, green beans, and homegrown tomatoes.

She served thick slices of tomato, which we then sprkinkled with a bit of sugar to enhance the flavor. Cucumbers came out not just as some of the best pickles ever - dill and sweet slicers - but in little dishes with a touch of onion and either vinegar or cream. Green peppers got stuffed or sliced to be eaten like candy. (I don't actually like green peppers much, but I still eat them and immediately taste summer.) Corn came in on the cob, and turned into one of my most favorite things ever - corn relish. New potatoes bathed in butter disappeared so quickly they almost seemd a figment of our imagination. Larger potatoes with some of the creamy cucumber went down pretty easy, too.

I won't say I was her best helper in the garden. I'm pretty sure I was the worst. I hated gardening then - hot, dirty, gross bugs, boring - but love it now. I wish I had paid more attention and been more patient while working with her. She might not admit it to me, but I'm pretty sure I got to go back inside because I was better at whining than assisting. It was not for a lack of effort on her part, and I give her due credit for trying.

I believe that much of what is best about me is from her. As we all are, I was raised and influenced by a number of people - family and friends - but it is my mother who instilled in me a firm belief in helping others, to be kind and civil in the face of adversity, to believe in myself, and that homemade is best. These all sound rather trite, but I have found them sound guiding principles as I move through life.

You could say she planted those seeds in me (and my brothers) long ago, and has tended them ever since with patience and love. It is her example I try to live up to and learn from to this day. I'm not there yet, but I'm so very glad to celebrate her today and the gift she is to us. Happy Birthday, Mom!


Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro