My memory is not the greatest, many details of my childhood seem to have slid into a slight remembrance of a feeling or mood, whereas, my sister quickly recalls everything. Somehow my clearest memories are experiences related to food. Lazy evenings spent on the couch while my mom made dinner listening to NPR; tomato fights in the backyard with the neighborhood kids—I’m sure my mom’s not too fond of that incident; picking raspberries and eating them until I couldn’t eat anymore.
Having evolved into a gardener, my brain touches on these experiences while I’m planting, weeding and harvesting. Some of my fondest thoughts wander back to visiting my grandparents in British Columbia. Having moved from a farm in Alberta, the climate in BC was much more tolerable; my grandfather was the gardener in a small town called Naramata in the Okanagon Valley, a haven for fruit growers. Grandma canned everything from their garden and more, and I used to love to peruse the cold storage room, eyeing the neatly stacked jars of green beans, pickles, peaches, cherries and beets. It was here that I remember Grandma taking us up the hill to hunt for wild asparagus.
Later, Grandma and Grandpa rented a house on an orchard, and I would run through the cherry trees to the cliff that overlooked the Okanogan Lake. My visits were in the summer, usually during peach and cherry season. I would pick the ripe juicy peaches and bite right into them; outside it didn’t matter how messy we got. That’s also when I got a taste for Bing cherries. Now store bought cherries and peaches just don’t seem worth my money; they don’t even compare. Bill June, the orchard owner, would employ my sister and me, paying us 5 cents for every bucket of cherries we picked. And Grandpa taught us how to shoot the slippery cherry pits out from between thumb and forefinger.
G & G always had a wonderful vegetable garden. Being the grazer then that I still am, I would rummage through their garden, munching whatever I could find, and that is when Grandma warned me not to eat the rhubarb. I did try a bite, which fortunately was not very appetizing; and, believe it or not, I still love rhubarb!
My grandparents are no longer around, but they are with me all the time; when I put up my pea supports, or dig compost into the garden. I also think about the lessons they taught me about frugality; lessons they learned and lived during the Depression. And I’m not entirely sure why these memories are so sharp; I know smell is a memory trigger, and it could be related to that. Or is it that food is a basic need, and being able to learn and remember plants is essential for survival. Either way, I love fresh food; gardening is my therapy, and working as the market manager for the Tremont Farmers’ Market is one of the most gratifying jobs I’ve ever had. Farmers are the salt of the earth, and I am proud to support them in any way I can.
Tremont Farmers’ Market Manager