Plants of Yesteryear

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, we had an acre size lot that was probably 75% gardens. I guess you could say my garden education started early :). For me, spring was always synonymous with waking up the gardens. I was a “grazer” – I would go out in the yard and find things to eat as soon as they could be found.

The other day, we added some fresh chives to our omelets, and I couldn’t help but remember how I thought it was fun to pick chives out of the garden and eat them raw. You really know spring was coming when you saw the chives coming up! The chive plant that I have came from the Berry Patch (my spring weekend job) and has traveled with us from our first Riverwest apartment in planter boxes.

Another early delicacy was asparagus. One of my favorite things to do was to go asparagus “hunting” with my dad and my sister. We grew it in our yard, but it also grew wild out on the farmlands surrounding our house. We liked it so much that we harvested as much as we could every year. At the end of a long day working (or playing, in my case) outside, we would hop in the car or even ride our bikes around on the country roads and pick asparagus for dinner.

While I don’t know that I’ll be finding any wild asparagus patches in north Milwaukee, I do intend to have my own patch in the backyard. I got my hands on some roots last weekend, and set to work planting them next to the brassica frame. I know it will be a few years before I can harvest it, but that’s fine. In a way, it’s a hopeful thing to do – it reminds me that I will in fact be here in two years, harvesting the fruit of my labor.

Not too long after asparagus, the rhubarb was ready to eat. My siblings and I always felt like we were really tough country kids – we would have our city friends over and dare them to eat rhubarb stalks raw. When they inevitably scrunched up their faces at the sourness, we would calmly munch on our stalks like it was no big deal. However, I think that it did taste best when you dipped the end of the stalk in sugar and ate it like candy. Now I really enjoy it as a jam or in a pie.

Because the rhubarb experience is something I want to pass along to my kids, I planted a starter on the south side of the garage, near where the edible garden connects to it. I don’t know that it will be big enough to harvest this year, but hopefully by next year we can enjoy it.

I also cleared a space along the garage for sunflowers – another favorite childhood plant. My mom still grows sunflowers in her garden, and even though I’m taller than I was as a seven year old, they still grow over my head. I can’t wait to see them all lined up along the garage!

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One Comment to “Plants of Yesteryear”

  1. Nothing says spring like strawberry-rhubarb pie, and I just made one. I envy you your garden. We’re moving soon so I won’t be having a garden this year. I planted mine here anyway, so the new occupants will have one ready-made. The upside is that we’re moving to coastal Spain, which is in growing zone 10 so I’ll be looking to plant some tropical fruit trees. Always wanted an avocado tree. Enjoy!

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