Gardening Ties Us To Our Cultural Heritage, Entrevista en Inglés y Español

Throughout the month of November, we will be showing gratitude to people in our community whose work has what we like to call the “Pollinator Effect”. Just like pollinators are a small but mighty part of the life cycle in the garden, these people are part of a cycle that is much bigger than themselves. Their impact grows exponentially as it influences friends and family, shapes the minds of youth, creates resiliency, and much more.

Last week, we introduced you to Peggy Backup, an educator who is teaching our younger generations how to care for each other and their world through garden learning. This week, meet Luzmila and Nicolas. Since moving to the United States from Mexico in the 70’s, gardening has served as an important tie to their culture.



Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! The abundance of pomegranates is being shared far and wide!

Pomegranates originated in Iran and Northern India and later spread throughout the whole Mediterranean region, including Asia, Africa and Europe. In 1600 BC pomegranates from Syria were brought to Egypt, where they became a highly valued fruit, especially meant for pharaohs, and were often put in tombs and paintings or embroidered on robes of priests and other important people.

Traditionally, pomegranate juice was used in Egypt to treat intestinal worms. The blossom and peel were often used to create a natural dye and even used to dye leather.

Pomegranates became a popular symbol in many cultures and religions and was often a noteworthy detail in Greek myths. The fruit often symbolized fertility and strength, and eternal life was suggested by the leaves remaining green year-round. Buddhism emphasizes three blessed fruits, with the pomegranate being one of them.


Garden Educators Shaping Our Youth

Throughout the month of November, we will be showing gratitude to people in our community whose work has what we like to call the "Pollinator Effect". Just like pollinators are a small but mighty part of the life cycle and keep things growing, these people are part of a cycle that’s much bigger than themselves. Their impact grows exponentially as it influences friends and family, shapes the minds of youth, creates resiliency and much more.

This week, meet Peggy Backup. After five years serving as the Garden Specialist at both Nokomis and Grace Hudson elementary schools, Peggy recognizes the quiet transformative power of something as delicate as a lacewing.


Seeds of Wisdom - Jerusalem Artichokes

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We’re seeing some of the beautiful yellow flowers blooming in the gardens, suggesting what bounty hides beneath the earth’s surface – Jerusalem artichoke tubers!

Jerusalem artichokes – also known as sunchokes, sunroots and earth apples – belong to the sunflower family and originated in Central and North America, a staple crop for Native American Tribes. These plants were brought to Europe in the 1600s and become widely cultivated in France. Despite being known as a “poor man’s vegetable” during World War II due to its prevalent availability, sunchokes are still quite popular in Europe. The plant grows tall green stalks that can reach up to 10 feet and have yellow flowers resembling small sunflowers. The edible roots of this plant – ranging from gray to brown, purple and pink flesh tones - offer a sweet, nutty potato substitute.

These root veggies are usually in season throughout October and November. After harvesting your tubers, be sure to replant a few for next year’s crop. Otherwise, tubers for planting in early spring should be stored in a cool place without the risk of frost until ready for planting. Planting the tubers as early is possible in the spring is key, otherwise you risk a yield of smaller sized tubers.

Seeds of Wisdom - Cantaloupe

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We’re at the end of the season for cantaloupe, but we couldn’t miss the chance to highlight this nutrient rich fruit. Cantaloupe is known by many names – muskmelon, sweet melon, rockmelon, and more. It is said to have originated in parts of Africa, India and Iran, but has since become widely cultivated throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States – California being the largest producer of cantaloupe in the nation, growing at least half of the nation’s total yield. China produces around 25 billion pounds of melons per year - about half of the world’s total production of melons!

In the 1400-1500s, cantaloupe seeds from Armenia were planted in Italy. The small Italian town of Cantalupo became the namesake for this fruit. These melons are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, squashes, and other melons like honeydew and watermelon. Plants within this family can cross-pollinate quite easily, which has resulted in a lot of different melon hybrids.

Cantaloupes are notably high in vitamins A and beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9, C and K, along with the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.


Seeds of Wisdom - Purslane

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Some of the community gardens are experiencing an abundance of purslane, a powerhouse plant that is commonly dismissed as a weed. Buckets full of harvested purslane have us excited to learn more about its benefits and find some creative recipes.

The purslane plant – also known as pigweed or verdolaga - has been highly revered in many aboriginal cultures as well as traditional Chinese medicine. With its origin being the Mediterranean region, it has been a common leafy vegetable for much of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Every part of this incredible plant is edible – the stems, leaves, flowers and seeds – making it an easy addition to your cooking. Purslane has a salty, somewhat sour taste to it, appealing to our lesser activated taste buds.

Purslane is a fast-growing succulent and does well in drier soils and climates, thriving in harsh growing conditions and growing happily in this region throughout the spring and summer and well into fall. Wild purslane tends to grow into a dense mat and has small leaves, whereas varieties that have been cultivated have larger leaves and might grow more upright. A certain variety even grows up to 18 inches tall. With wild purslane being abundant here, you might not need to grow your own. However, if growing a cultivated variety it’s best to start the plants indoors and wait until the last frost before transplanting them outside. If you’re wanting to try purslane but don’t want to risk it taking over your garden, it can grow quite happily in a container or even as microgreens!


Seeds of Wisdom - Okra

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We took a break for a while to make space for promotion of our Garden Tour event that happened on Saturday. Touring around 4 of the Ukiah community gardens served as a great reminder of the diverse array of produce being grown locally.

Okra is in season right now but not always the most popular. Its unique mucilage substance makes it less desirable for some. Okra has become widely cultivated around the world and has adopted the name “lady fingers”. It is thought that Okra came from Ethiopia, spread through Egypt then the rest of North Africa and the Middle East. In the 1700s, the Caribbean and United States were introduced to okra by way of the slave trade. In the U.S. okra is most popular in the south and is a key ingredient in many Cajun, Creole and other southern dishes. The wide use of okra in these southern diets is thanks to slaves teaching Creoles to use okra in gumbo and other soups as a thickener.

Okra is part of the mallow family along with cotton and hollyhock. As a tropical plant, okra does best in warm climates with little frost. Okra can be a large plant, growing to 6 feet tall, requiring adequate space when planting. Ideal spacing for okra plants is 18 inches apart, with row spacing around 5 to 6 feet. It’s important to note that if your soil is very nitrogen rich, the okra pods won’t grow as large, whereas the leaves will. You should harvest your okra pods when they’re 4 inches or less, before they get too tough. Being easily affected by cold, okra does not store too well in the fridge and should be stored unwashed and then used within a couple days of being stored.


Seeds of Wisdom - Bell Pepper

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Peppers are poppin’ lately! These beauties can add a much needed burst of color to any meal, producing varieties of red, orange, yellow, green, purple and white fruits.

Bell peppers originated in the Caribbean, North, Central and South America and have since been cultivated throughout many countries. The top producers of bell peppers across the globe are China, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and Spain.

Peppers offer significant amounts of fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin A, B1, B6, C, E and K. Bell peppers are the best source of vitamin C in the vegetable category and come in second for vitamin C content overall. Vitamin C of course helps support a strong immune system, as well as helps fight oxidative stress, cancer and more. Bell peppers are great sources of beta-carotene as well. In fact “one cup of freshly sliced bell pepper contains about 1,500 micrograms of beta-carotene, the equivalent of approximately 1/3rd small carrot” (The World’s Healthiest Foods). These vitamins, along with all the antioxidant phytochemicals, are vital for skin and respiratory health as well.


Seeds of Wisdom - Basil

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We looked into tomatoes last week and couldn’t help but think of the classic pairing of tomatoes and basil. Basil is a popular culinary herb that many gardeners grow, so let’s dive into the health benefits, medicinal uses and more of this aromatic plant.

The origin of this herb is said to be in Africa, Asia, India and the South Pacific, but is now grown throughout the world. Basil is a common herb in many holistic and ancient medicine systems. Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine recognize this powerful herb and tap into its many uses. This is an honored herb in many cultures. Basil represented hospitality in India, love in Italy, and its name came from “basilikohn”, a Greek word meaning royal.

Basil is part of the mint family and offers many different varieties. Some common varieties to note are sweet basil which is the most popular, especially in Italian food, offering notes of clove and licorice. Greek basil, also known as Bush basil, is great for container gardening, is very aromatic but not overpowering in flavor. Thai basil has more of a note of anise in flavor, has purple flowers and stems, and is a staple in Thai and many Asian cuisines. Cinnamon basil is a spicy basil native to Mexico that is commonly used for jellies, potpourri and vinegars. Another basil commonly used in potpourri, but also teas and salads, is Lemon basil which of course has a lemon flavor and fragrance. Lettuce basil has much larger, sweet leaves that resemble a wrinkly lettuce or large spinach.


Seeds of Wisdom - Tomatoes

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! It’s that time of year – to savor those bright, juicy tomatoes flowing out of the gardens.

The tomato species originated in parts of South America - Colombia and Ecuador. However, historical research shows that tomato cultivation first started in Mexico. In fact, the Aztec civilizations were responsible for giving the fruit its name, thanks to their word “tomatl” for “the swelling fruit”. Seeds were brought to Europe by the explorers and brought north to Central and North America by Spanish colonizers. They’re now commonly known as an essential ingredient in dishes in the Mediterranean region but have also become a staple produce across the world.
Tomatoes are relatively easy to grow and are a fun crop to experiment with. Try a different variety! They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors – red, orange, yellow, green and purple!



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