The Sistah Vegan Project

Archive for the category “Gardening”

Romanticization of picking your own strawberries: How I came full circle with agricultural labor and black rural identity

I drove through Gaviota, CA last recently with the kids. We stopped at Classic Organic farm and picked our own strawberries and raspberries. In this video I talk about how picking your own fruit is not always a ‘fun’ hobby, depending on how your grew up (for example, if you are working as a harvester under poor conditions).

Corn Pops is mightier than growing your own food…

I don’t understand my father sometimes. I love him so much. He has been an amazing father…
…but, the dude just can’t shake the addictions he has to junk food. He has diabetes and survived renal cancer in 2007. The renal cancer was linked to smoking for 45 years. The diabetes is from his horrible diet.

When I flew out from California to New England to visit my parents and brother this summer, I watched in horror as my father would sit down at the kitchen table and pour himself a bowl of Corn Pops and literally poured 1/2 can of condensed milk on top of them. Did I mention that he has diabetes? I asked him why he is eating like this and he repeatedly tells me that he just can’t shake his addiction to crap food. Intellectually, he knows that these foods (well, ‘unfoods’) are killing him, but he keeps on saying that his body is addicted and that at least he quit smoking (which I am proud of him for doing so).

Now, what I also need to share is that I keep on reading that black folk in the USA have higher rates of diseases, related to poor nutrition. I keep on reading that the urban poor black folk eat the way my father does because of food deserts, lack of access to their own land to grown their own food, lack of farmer’s markets, etc. If one is given better access to healthier foods and is taught how to grow their own food, their nutritional health will change dramatically. But here is the kicker…

…my father has lived in a rural area on 2.5 acres of his own land for the past 30 years. He has his own orchard and garden. I grew up with a man who knows how to grown just about anything in the zone that he lives.

Blackberry from my father's orchard

Hazelnuts, chestnuts, watermelon, tomatoes, peaches, pears, apples, lettuce, squash, walnuts, pau pau, currants, blueberries, string beans, corn, asparagus, rose hips, and blackberries are the many beautiful foods that he grew and I ate like crazy while growing up. My father can tell you why he grows what he grow, and how it helps one’s health. For instance, he grows rose hips so he can get the best source of Vitamin C. He grows garlic for an immune booster. Below is a picture of one of his chestnut trees.

But sitting at the kitchen table with him, or looking at him eat Oreo cookies, a bag of pork rinds, and struggle with maintaining healthy sugar level, hypertension, and weight, you would never know that he is a master gardener, an expert in edible landscaping, and very knowledgeable when it comes to using herbalism. Obviously, despite having everything he needs to be healthier, he can’t kick his addictions to what I call, ‘death foods.’

I know he gets why I eat whole foods vegan diet. He always says that it’s healthy and if more people ate that way they could avoid diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, etc.
It is incredibly painful to come home and open the cupboards and the pantry and see the ‘death foods’ that my father continues to eat. It breaks my heart when he consciously tells me, “I just can’t help it. My body is addicted to it.”  The addictions are obviously incredibly strong, because despite having everything he needs to be nutritionally healthy, he isn’t doing it.

Schizandra Berries That My Father Grows

Schizandra Berries That My Father Grows

And I feel angry, and scared, and at a loss because I fear that my father will be like so many black men who die far younger than they should because they are addicted to these unfoods. His addiction must be incredibly difficult to overthrow, I guess. This man was able to quit smoking in 1 day, after his doctor told him, “You have diabetes. If you don’t stop smoking I am going to cut your legs off in a year.”

But sugar seems to be far more addictive than his Winstons, I guess. I can’t believe that Corn Pops, pork rinds, condensed milk are mightier than growing his own food; mightier than the fact that he intellectually knows what he should be eating; mightier than the 30 years worth of herbalism knowledge that he has.

Corns Pops continue to win. It must be some form of legal crack cocaine. How else do you explain it!?

Obviously, something more is needed to get people like my father to stop eating ‘death foods.’ I’m simply can’t find research or books that looks at how it is possible that despite having his own land, not living in poverty, being a Master gardener, people will still reach for that box of sugar coated sugar Kelloggs cereal.

Does anyone else have this experience with a loved one, or is my father an anomaly?

Breeze’s edible yard adventures in Connecticut

At my parent's house in Connecticut with friends, brother, hubby & Sun

At my parent's house in Connecticut with friend Hope, twin brother, hubby & Sun

I made a vegan apple turnover yesterday evening. I have been in Connecticut for 6 weeks, visiting my parents with Sun and Oliver.

My dad has been doing edible landscaping for about 31 years now. My parent’s homestead has a lot of yumminess: black currants, Goji Berries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, pears, cranberries, walnuts, … and my beloved peaches. Using vegan Organic Filo dough, I made a turnover out of peaches from the tree I planted more than 20 years ago. It’s a Crawford Peach.

I remember I was about 11 years old and had just finished eating a peach from our orchard. I told my dad it was fantastic and that it was my favorite thus far. He told me to plant the pit somewhere, so I did; right beside the back door. Here is the result of something I planted over 20 years ago and that my father has been pruning and taking care of. I chopped up peaches, then mixed a little rum extract, vanilla extract, corn starch, raisins, allspice and cinnamon. Below is the picture of the result. I must say that it tasted very good.

My healthy vegan peach turnover

My healthy vegan peach turnover

I share this with you because I have always been impressed with how much time, energy, and love my father has put into his trees and other edible plants. He knows so much about edible yards, it’s quite impressive.  It’s his love and passion and I love eating the results :-) Right now he’s trying to grow figs in Connecticut. The plants are doing quite well. The Black Walnuts he grows are 3x more aromatic and tastier than the standard commercial walnuts found in commons grocery stores.

The first few weeks here at my parent’s house, I overdosed on blueberries!

Breeze Blueberry Picking

Breeze Blueberry Picking

Sun is too young to pick or even eat blueberries, but he enjoyed being strapped to daddy while daddy picked.

Sun and blueberries

Sun and blueberries

I ended up making blueberry pancakes out of these scrumptuous berries. My father also picked many pounds of black currants (cassis) and froze bags of them. I made black currant pancakes one morning, and then black currant and chocolate chip pancakes a few days ago. Both came out VERY well. I mixed whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, and teff flower, along with coconut milk, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmet, canola oil, and baking powder.

Black Currant Pancakes

Black Currant Pancakes

A few apples were ready for picking and pie making. I attempted to make a pie for Oliver, who can’t have gluten. There will be no picture of that, as the pie was eaten before I could take a picture it. But, below is Sun, reaching for an apple that daddy was handing to him.

Sun getting apple

Sun getting apple

We depart back to Berkeley, CA on Monday. I’m going to miss the yard! :-(

Post Navigation


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,052 other followers