As my children and I prepare for Thanksgiving, I’m wondering what we would do if we were joining the pilgrims and their native American friends on Thursday for a feast that depended only on what we saved from this year’s garden.
My family has quarts of tomato sauce and green beans in the freezer. We also have some sweet potatoes wrapped in newspaper and stored that a fellow gardener shared. We do have frozen blueberries, strawberries, asparagus and a few apples we gathered and saved from local pick-your-own and farm stands. But we were slack this year. We didn’t make zucchini bread or pies to put in the freezer, and we failed to put up corn and peaches as we traditionally do.
So if we were pilgrims coming to the first feast of Thanksgiving, we would share a fancy bowl of string beans in a spicy tomato sauce and be extremely grateful that our neighbors froze their squash and zucchini, onions and peppers, eggplant and snow peas instead of eating them like we did.
We would be in awe of the garden abundance that people brought to the table and truly bow our heads in thanksgiving because a feast of turkey, stuffing, cranberries and mashed potatoes would taste mighty good to a family who is destined to eat sauce and beans all winter.
Recently, members of the community garden gathered to talk about how the 2014 summer went and what we can do to improve the gardens for 2015.
One of our greatest achievements this year was sharing our excess harvests with the local food bank, friends and neighbors.
One gardener at the meeting told a story of how she took extra tomatoes from her garden to the nearby food bank, which is located in the back of a thrift store. A woman who was shopping paused when she saw the beautiful red fruit that the community gardener was donating and then timidly asked if she could have one of the fresh tomatoes.
The gardener happily held out the tomatoes and as the woman selected the one she liked, the gardener added, “Please, don’t take just one. Take two.”
The woman showed her gratitude.
“I’m going to have the best tomato sandwich for supper,” she said.
It’s possible that a fresh tomato sandwich, which most of us take for granted, was a feast for the woman who was so thankful for the simple offering.
A local group of Girl Scouts rented one of the plots and donated all of their harvest to those in need. The girls are probably too young to realize what their vegetables and melons truly meant for many families in this community. But thankfully the girls are old enough to understand the importance of sharing.
One summer evening, I was alone in our fenced-in plot and an elderly woman walked up and asked me about the community gardens and what we had planted. I gave her information about renting a garden and then led a quick tour through our rows.
She praised The Green Thumbs’ cherry tomatoes and eggplant. She told me about how she had grown up in the South and ate plenty of home-grown okra. I found an empty cardboard container in the back of my car and filled it with tomatoes and okra. I threw in an eggplant, too. I apologized because the container was small, and I wanted to give more. But she assured me that what I shared was plenty, and she talked about how much a pint of cherry tomatoes costs at the grocery store.
I am hoping to see her next year as a fellow gardener because looking back at our encounter, I’m wondering now if she really wanted to plant a garden or if she instead was hungry.
As far as I know, all of us in the community garden plant as a hobby, not out of necessity. Our farming would take on a whole new meaning if it were our only food source.
The pilgrims must have taken much pride in bringing part of their crop successes to the table.
If the first Thanksgiving originated in our community garden, we, too, would be sharing a meal of epic proportions because the members of our community garden know how to farm. They know how to cook. And most importantly, they know how to share.
And for that, many people can give thanks.