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Having a Vegetable Garden Can Transform the Way We Look at Food, Life

Columnist remembers growing up among greenery.

Being a first generation Italian American, I had the privilege of growing up surrounded by bountiful vegetable and fruit gardens.  Some of my most vivid childhood memories are encompassed by the fragrant fig trees, the hearty tomato vines, and the abundant zucchini flowers that grew in the gardens of my family; the gardens allowed for me to not only appreciate the land, but it also allowed for me to appreciate my heritage, particularly my grand-mother.  The gardens that my grand-mother has so meticulously cultivated in both her North Jersey and her Jersey shore home provide her with a sanctuary—the garden has become her gold mine. 

There is nothing more delicious than a meal based predominately on what can be found in the garden.  To this day, when I visit my 92 year-old grand-mother in the summer months, her first question to me in her deep Italian-English accent is: "What do you want to eat—let's go look in the garden."

Walking amidst the succulent eggplants and bountiful peppers to include in a lunch frittata is not just a poetic vision, yet it is a way of life. My grand-mother grew up on a farm in Calabria, Italy, and so the gardens that she has created in America have not only become her home away from home, but the gardens have allowed for her to provide luscious and healthy food for herself and for her family to savor. 

What my grand-mother has taught me through her garden is that the simplest pleasures in life are not bought, yet cultivated through passion, patience, and perseverance. There is nothing more rewarding than allowing yourself to indulge in a small plot of land and making it your own, and there is nothing more therapeutic than picking the literal fruits of your labor and serving it to family and friends.  Even my husband has been enamored by my Italian family's passion for gardens, and when we bought our first home, one of the first tasks my husband promised to work on was a vegetable garden; with the aid of my parents and grand-mother, my husband's dream of having a garden came to fruition.

Although our personal garden is both minuscule and humble in comparison to my grand-mother's, it's still ours, and I cannot help but to feel proud of what we have accomplished.  But most importantly, each time I water my plants, breathe in that aromatic tomato vine scent, and pluck a juicy, warm Roma tomato, I will think of my grand-mother, her Italian garden, and the invaluable lessons that she has instilled in my life.

So instead of relying on a food market to provide you with your herbs and vegetables, why not provide your family with the vegetables from your own garden?  Having your own garden will grant you with many rewards, especially with the peace of mind knowing where and how the vegetables are cultivated, and so I encourage you to stop by Condurso's Garden Center and Nursery in Montville, and allow them to educate you and assist you in the cultivation of your very own vegetable garden.  And if you do not own a backyard, you could acquire a plot of land in the Montville Community Garden located in the Montville Community Park.

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