Sunday, June 13, 2010


I just finished reading a book today and thought I would share. Why? Because it moved me deeply. The stories, the people, the gardens. Anthropology, sociology, biology, psychology, history.

The Earth Knows My Name : Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindeinst.

Maybe it's because of Bill. Ever since I can remember, he had a garden. He grew things and taught us how to grow things. Bill is not an easy man to converse with or sometimes understand but in the garden, there was a connection, something to talk about and look at together. I remember getting the soil ready and following behind him as he manned the rototiller, picking out rocks by hand and taking them to the Rock Pile in the corner of the garden. I remember the planting, how he would show me how far apart to place the tiny seeds, then cover them and water them. I remember checking it every day to see what was new or who needed some love or to find evidence of any visitors who wanted to munch something too. And the harvesting, the best part! Eating tomatoes right there in the garden with a salt shaker and smiles.

Tomato seeds are a big deal to him and now to me. He got them originally from an Italian friend with the last name Vignoli and that's what we call them, Vignolis. Each tomato I harvest and slice that is a prime specimen has the seeds separated from the flesh. I rinse them and they dry on a paper plate in the kitchen, then are placed in a paper envelope for next year. Every spring I look at the calendar and pick the day they will be planted. I always plant on the full moon. This year Bill's seedlings did not fare well and we were quite proud to give him some of ours.

I've learned over the years not everyone cares about them like we do. I have offered the seeds to others and given plants to others to nourish but no one seems to understand their importance. They don't save the seeds and plant them again. They are heirloom seeds; they are not Early Girls you buy at the store already sprouted who will ripen quickly and have had pesticides poured on them. They have been saved with love and with hope year after year and it still seems impossible to get a whole plant out of such a tiny little thing, that seed. We alone seem to care about them.

Now I know other gardeners out there feel this way and more. They have come from far-away lands and brought tiny pieces of their lives and childhood to a place that worked to make them feel ashamed of where they are from, worked to make them forget it. Or for some, they were here first but had everything taken from them by strangers to their land, were marched west and given inhospitable desert lands to live on and have still managed to scratch the dusty earth and bring forth life. I don't have any seeds to plant from my own ancestors but plant some from an Italian man I've never met. Now I want to seek out other seeds, other ways of growing and planting. I am so inspired by this book I have to slow my mind down as I am already dreaming of next year's garden while this year's garden is still out there growing!

Anyone who would like some Vignoli seeds, please give me your email address and I will contact you for your mailing address and send them out to you this October after the harvest. They appear to us to be similar or the same as Oxheart tomatoes. The fruit is pink rather than red at harvest and they are heart-shaped. The plants themselves get really tall, you'll definitely need a large stake for them. They are a very late tomato, usually being harvested in September but I promise, worth the wait!


Laura said...

I would love to try the vignolis tomatoes...I'm also going to read the book you mentioned...