Eating Fresh Tomatoes Off the Vine

This is part two in a three-part series about my gardening journey. In this post, I share about my earliest gardening memories as well as my first experiences gardening on my own as a young adult. Read part one here.

Raised by gardeners & eating tomatoes off the vine

As a child, I helped my dad in our backyard vegetable and flower garden with planting, watering, composting, picking squash and pumpkins, and eating ripe, red, juicy tomatoes right off the vine. I would carry little bins of tomatoes into the house where my mom would make spaghetti sauce or blanch and freeze the tomatoes for later use. My mom also loves to garden and spent countless hours in the front yard planting flowers and maintaining the landscape during my childhood. (This all took place on Chochenyo / Muwekma Ohlone ancestral land.)

I grew up surrounded by gardeners, including my two grandmothers and my great-grandmother. I heard stories about my great-great-grandfather who had a farm in Minnesota in the 1930s (pictured below with my grandmother and her brother). It was the devastating effects of the Dust Bowl that brought my great-grandparents to California in 1940.

Nanny with Grandpa Hank and Jerry

Immersed in an environment of plants, gardening, and my mom’s exploration of natural healing through the use of herbs, I developed an appreciation for plants that led to a fascination for ethnobotany and the many different functions plants can serve in our lives—from food to medicine to tools and more.

I spent many hours in high school researching Indigenous uses of plants native to my hometown and considered majoring in anthropology to further pursue my studies. I majored instead in Literature for the transferrable critical thinking and writing skills I would gain, as well as my love for stories and their power to connect people across time, culture, and space.

Gardening in San Jose, CA

After graduating from college, I moved to San Jose, California (Tamyen / Muwekma Ohlone ancestral land), where I started my own backyard vegetable garden. It was July 2015, and my collection of bell pepper, cilantro, and mint plants quickly grew into a lush garden of potted edible plants mingled with overflowing nasturtiums, sunflowers, and poppies. Soon, every available sunny windowsill held a rotating array of seedlings and experiments.

My childhood passion for gardening blossomed within me now that the demands of homework were gone and I could spend time tending to my plants after a long day staring at a computer at work.

I said goodbye to my first garden in June 2016 when my partner (now husband) and I moved to a house with a larger yard. Less than a month after moving, we built a raised bed on a patch of dying grass where I planted tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, sunflowers, corn, and basil and was absolutely amazed by how the many tiny seeds I planted turned into a jungle of growth in the summer heat. View photos of that garden here.

I learned a lot about what I’d do differently next time, but I also ended up with more questions than answers about what exactly I had done right that led to the success of the few vegetables that did grow well.

Read part three of the series here.

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