"Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden."- ROBERT BRAULT
I've written before of my love of gardening. I am particularly fond of growing my own vegetables. I live in the heart of Toronto, and have a typical urban backyard with limited sunlight and space. This poses a challenge when it comes to the dream of growing my own food. I yearn for big green space, lots of sun, and extensive raised beds. Rows of green in various hues, plump red tomatoes hanging off bamboo stakes reaching to the sky, vines of sweet pea climbing patina stained obelisks.
The desire to grow my own food comes from growing up in Woodbridge, Ontario, where the majority of my friends and their families were first and second generation Italian immigrants from Calabria. Even though my family wasn't Italian, (we're first generation Indian immigrants) we relished in the Italian traditions…especially a love of growing things and cooking. Everyone, including my family, had large vegetable gardens which we tended and ate from daily.
I remember the excitement of the approaching spring when my three siblings and I would plan and plant the garden. We were a bit of an anomaly…4 kids planting and tending a huge garden??...but that’s what we loved. Daily, over the summer and fall, we would harvest from the bounty, and indulge in flavourful meals my mother prepared.
I also fondly remember sharing in this experience with Italian friends at their kitchen tables, feasting on the most delicious pastas, simply prepared just picked vegetables and fruit, homemade cheeses and sopressata. Nothing I’ve eaten since tastes like that fresh food, grown from the soil, the sun, and the rain in our backyards.
Anytime I see bunches of fresh green shiny leaves, those memories come flooding back. Greens cooked in olive oil, with lots of garlic and dried chilli was a staple on the tables of my Italian friends - especially if nonna was cooking.
To celebrate the beauty of those gardens, the Italians I grew up with, and the love of growing food they inspired in me, I'm sharing this recipe. Buon appetito!