Food For the Soul: Family Garden Feeds More Than Appetite
When asked to name his favorite food, our 4-year-old son says bruschetta.
More specifically, he prefers bruschetta homemade with our fresh garden tomatoes and basil, served atop a slice of untoasted French bread. Minus the crust.
My son’s preschool teacher posted get-to-know-you tidbits about her students in the elementary hallway. Under favorite food, classmates listed pizza, macaroni and cheese and even hot wings. From a distance, we heard someone read our son’s preference during open house night.
“Bruschetta?” a man questioned.
The teacher reacted with equal surprise when she learned of his favorite food.
Moments like this remind me how the family garden weaves through our lives. The garden defines more than just what we eat. It’s a source of passion, pride, work ethic, conversation and connection to our heritage. My family’s gardening history spans more than a century. Certainly, I add my own personality to the garden and its harvest. In fact, an abundant tomato crop prompted an online recipe search. Then, bruschetta became an annual ritual.
Gardening undoubtedly surfaces as a favorite part of spring. We leap from cabin fever and act on plans for enough green beans to eat and can. We anticipate an onion harvest that lasts 10 months in the basement. We map out a staggered harvest schedule for extended enjoyment of corn on the cob; berries abundant for eating, baking and jam; and enough tomatoes to preserve spaghetti sauce and my son’s beloved bruschetta.
Yet the garden feeds my soul as much as my family’s appetite for fresh fruits and veggies. The garden furnishes inspiration and healing. It serves up a relationship with the earth and exposure to the miracle of a seed. It provides a means to appreciating the skill, responsibility and dedication required to produce food.
In the garden, we feel empowered and driven by the standard of self-sufficiency. Proof lies in my third trimester of pregnancy with our first child. I would lie on my side to harvest veggies and pull pigweed. I love the fresh air, the fresh food and the opportunities to exercise while working.
Our frequent garden experiences show in soiled fingernails and soil-crusted shoes. Our children witness the care and responsibility of growing their own food. They grasp work ethic and reward. They realize potatoes grow underground. They develop a sense of the garden’s rhythm: the pace to till, the depth to plant and the knowledge of how often to drop seed in the trench.
Meanwhile, the garden grows into a living work of art. The soil serves as a canvas, painted with seeds to create eye-pleasing textures and patterns, including feathery-leafed carrot tops and sprawling, scratchy squash vines. The kids and I snap pictures and place them in a garden album.
At the end of the day, we sometimes talk about the food on our plates. From the porch, we gaze at the plants we painted across the soil. And we share the garden’s bounty, even when it cannot grow. At Christmastime, the kids gift their teachers with home-canned garden goodness adorned with holiday fabric.
Our son gave his preschool teacher a jar of bruschetta.