There is a neighbor with a green thumb who keeps an edible garden sanctuary. Her name is Rose and her garden connects her to the earth, nature, her ancestry, as well as having beautiful healthy food for sustainable living. Taking a few minutes with Rose is an eye opening, learning opportunity. She speaks of her edible, expansive garden, healthy eating and being grateful for the planet we live on by looking after it.
Q: Rose, what varieties do you have in your garden?
Fig trees which are my heart’s throb, Asian Pear, Goji berries. There are lots of fruit trees, American and Asian Persimmon. There are pawpaw trees, native to this area. I have blueberry bushes. There is a sour cherry tree which I really like. I have jujubes which look like dates when they get ripe, but they’re crispy like apples. In China, they are more popular than apples.
I have a Che tree which I ordered from Edible Landscaping*, it makes unbelievable fruits, they’re round and textured and red, but when you bite into them, it’s unbelievable. When the tree has fruit on it, it is a gorgeous tree with glossy green leaves and red fruit. I have Strawberry guava bushes, Concord grapes against the fence. I have hearty kiwi, you have to have the male and female for those. I have a hearty pomegranate, a couple of those. I have a hearty almond tree. I also have hazelnut trees.
Rose says if there is a tree company working in the neighborhood, she’ll ask them for wood chips. She also regularly picks up grass clippings from the neighbors.
Rose has been at her home in Chesterbrook Woods for 20 years. She says it’s a good amount of time to work on the soil and plant fruit trees.
Q: What other vegetables do you get from your garden?
I still have pumpkins from the fall, and pumpkins are a survival food and keep for months. In years when it’s good, my whole front yard is filled with pumpkins, and I invite the neighborhood kids to come and pick a pumpkin.
In the summer, I would say, I grow most of the fruits and vegetables. There is a grain called Amaranth that makes these plumy flowers, leaves of Amaranth are like spinach, poor man’s spinach they are called. Garlic chives come up, very nutritious, Perilla from my Korean friend that tastes a bit like sesame. Radishes so easy to grow and you can eat the greens. Parsley, very nutritious. You can eat violets, and day lilies, very interesting finding out what’s edible. One of the biggest parts of my garden is my elderberry patch, and you can make tea out of elderberry flowers, very good for you. I make elderberry syrup and jelly. They come up by themselves.
Q: Do you ever get sick? Not very often. I’m 70 and I don’t feel that age.
Q: Do you eat honey? I do have honey on hand although mostly, I try to avoid sweetener. One of my weaknesses is dark chocolate. I do like to have my dark chocolate.
Q: Do you ever eat cereal or oatmeal?
Not very much, no. I have a lot of friends who avoid gluten. I have read a lot about cereals and it’s not a food that we evolved with. I don’t eat a lot of grains. I thought I would miss my sourdough, but it’s been mostly okay. I eat a lot of nuts and fish, vegetables and fruits.
If you blend cashews with cucumber it makes a creamy sort of hummus. I use garlic in the mix always, but you can add anything and everything, basil, curry, you can use zucchini. It’s really a miracle thing. I have an old blender I use, although my daughter gave me a Veg-o-matic. I have a machine that you can make yo-nanna, you put bananas in one end and it looks like frozen yogurt when you get it out the other end.
My grandparents Immigrated from Italy, people who came from the old country, my father’s father, we lived with when I was a little girl, he had an apricot tree and vegetables. Mother’s parents had chickens, plums, peaches. My cousin has an almond orchard. Lots of earthy family tradition."
Rose has cousins and relatives in Italy that she still visits.
Q: Do you feel connected to your family through gardening?
Yes, absolutely. When we grew up we had fig trees in California. I feel very connected through my fig trees. I was so happy when I found out I could grow fig trees here. The perfume of them reminds me of my family and growing up.
Rose has been at her home in Chesterbrook Woods for 20 years. She says it’s a good amount of time to work on the soil and plant fruit trees. She says there are always some catastrophes, to be expected with gardening.
Q: Rose, I have heard neighbors refer to you as an Earth Mother.
I came of age in the 1960’s, Berkeley, we thought we were earth mothers. I lived in Hawaii for 10 years, and gardened all year long. I love food and cooking. Wonderful to go out in the garden and come back with something fresh to eat, asparagus, pumpkins, tomatoes. A wonderful way to connect with the earth. I try to be responsible, I don’t use pesticides or chemicals.
Q: What can we do to be responsible to the earth? Conservation. I am always suspicious when I have to buy something to be green like the compost bin. I just dug a hole and bury kitchen scraps. You don’t have to buy stuff to be green-minded. Be more careful, turn out the light, unplug your computers when you’re not using them because they drain electricity. I have solar panels so I can be on the solar tour…it’s about being able to talk to people about conservation."
Rose does not have a car. She does a lot of walking which is a double bonus, also good for her exercise. On her way home, she brings a rolling suitcase to Trader Joe’s and takes the metro.
“I have a clothesline. It makes you more in tune with nature’s rhythms. Living in concert with nature.
“Use the least amount you can, consistent with your quality of life. Be mindful and adopt a feeling of gratitude for this beautiful, wondrous planet that we are privileged to live on.”
Q: Do you have chickens?
“I would love to have chickens! They give you eggs, they give you manure and they eat your bugs. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a neighborhood cow and the children could milk the cow!”
It was wonderful visiting Rose’s garden and speaking with her about edible landscaping and being mindful of our planet. Rose is a real inspiration to everyone.
*Edible Landscaping is located in in Afton, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They are a year around farm of all sorts of edible varieties, and they ship to you. Check out their very interesting website, containing many good informational videos about what they grow and ship. WWW.EDIBLELANDSCAPING.COM.