By Tamara Premo, MG Trainee
This morning as I was picking the last of the green beans and beets to can later in the day, I started thinking about all the ways my little garden nourishes me. Along with the wonderful food it provides, it also feeds my soul. I’m most content when I’m planting, weeding and harvesting. My love for gardening began when I was 6 years old and my grandmother (who had a wonderful garden) gave me a little bottle of clear liquid and told me if I put a drop of it on every tomato blossom that it would turn into a tomato. I still remember seeing that first tiny fruit and how excited I was. I don’t know what was in the bottle, maybe it was just water, but I thought it was magical. Over the years whenever I had some space to garden I’ve grown tomatoes.
Earlier this week I showed my niece and her best friend how to can something called Cowboy Candy, which was pickled jalapeños. While I watched as they were filling jars, I started thinking about my mother teaching me and my sisters how to can, which she learned from her mother. When I was young, we had an old stove in the basement and that is where we did all of our canning. I remember those hot summer days when we’d be downstairs nice and cool. We had an assembly line set up with my younger sister and me peeling the fruit, my older sisters cutting it up and mom managing the cooking pot. I didn’t realize it until years later that even when I was only peeling fruit, I was also learning how to do the rest of the steps by watching the others. Now 50+ years later I’m teaching another generation how to preserve the food we grow, and it occurred to me that I, like my mom and grandmother, am nourishing a tradition, one I hope they’ll pass on to their children.
What I love most about being a Master Gardener is the teaching component, especially teaching children. About ten years ago I taught a Junior Master Garden course. Most of the kids had been in 4-H for a few years, but only a couple of them had ever grown anything. Over the course of several weeks I taught container gardening because most of the kids lived in town with no space for a garden. We started with green beans (because they grow like a weed) and, of course, some tomato plants I’d started from seed. It was as much fun for me to see them get excited about harvesting their first green bean and tomatoes. Since then I’ve often wondered if any of them continued to garden. Well, I recently went to our local fair and one of my students had won first place for largest pumpkin! She told me that she had been growing fruits and vegetables ever since the JMG class and was thinking of becoming a Master Gardener. Wow! I had hoped to instill a love for gardening but you never know what will take root and germinate. I have no doubt that she will continue to nourish our teaching tradition with a new generation of gardeners.