Heritage Kitchen Gardens
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
What’s in Your Garden?
In North America, Asian American cuisine can be tricky label because it lumps together people, countries and cultures who are not otherwise unified. A dish from China may have its own history, its own memories, and its own set of traditions; just as a Korean dish has its own history, memories, and traditions. Asian American cuisine is a complicated umbrella term because presenting a dish as Asian, Asian Fusion or Asian American is not as straight forward as saying that risotto is an Italian dish— something is lost.
Asian Americans are finding ways to reclaim, rediscover, and reintegrate with cultural traditions, hold on to culture and reconnect with their roots; one of which is the kitchen garden.
In the states, kitchen gardens are not only a source of pride but a source of community that can reach beyond a neighborhood.
Kitchen gardens are by no means a new concept; these types of gardens have been a staple in Asian culture long before immigrants curated them in the United States. Kitchen gardens were and are a common practice out east.
In the states, kitchen gardens are not only a source of pride but a source of community that can reach beyond a neighborhood. Through internet and social media, more and more, Asian kitchen gardeners are sharing their cultivation tips with one and other in a way that was not previously possible. An Instagram post about a kumquat from a man in Florida might be seen by someone in California looking for information on how to grow the fruit. With exchanges like Instagram posts, the community celebrating cultural heritage through gardens grows.
Moreover, kitchen gardens and community gardening are common practice for many individuals descended from Asian immigrants. While some of the seeds first came from overseas (and have then been adapted to grow in the North American climate), gardeners will also share cuttings that have been passed down from parent to child and among neighbors.
Kitchen gardens not only represent a nostalgic familiarity for many Asian immigrants, but they also allow Asian Americans to gain (some) independence from westernized living by growing their own ingredients and reclaiming their heritage. Kitchen gardens tend to be home to plants and herbs that are not typically available at the average westernized-grocery store. Such as: bok choy, edamame, or snow peas. The cultivation knowledge that is inherited from elder generations and kitchen gardens is widely respected and exchanges with neighbors are common.
This garden community acts as a metaphorical and physical space of a shared experience from both the east and west.
Some kitchen gardens are practical just as much as there are sustainable. One kitchen gardener living in Houston, TX, purchased a pomelo tree (Chinese grapefruit) from a greenhouse to block the morning sun. Pomelo trees grow well in warm climates and the tree was a logical addition to his property.
This garden community acts as a metaphorical and physical space of a shared experience from both the east and west. It’s not uncommon for a neighborhood to take up a collection of plants and seeds to help an individual start their own kitchen garden.
What do you grow in your kitchen garden? Are there any gardening practices (or recipes) that have been passed down in your family?
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