Another generous soul has welcomed this stranger with a camera into her personal paradise to photograph her fruitful space. Rosa’s garden is fruitful indeed. The bountiful crop of bananas that first inspired me to knock on her door turned out to be short plantains(I still cannot tell the difference) –but there were bananas in the yard as well. And grapefruit. And asparagus. And avocados that are the size of papayas. And papayas everywhere! I lost track of all the other wonderful fruits and vegetables she is cultivating – she has promised to call me when the figs start developing – as well as the squash, tomatoes, pineapples, and much more.
As with so many gardeners, each plant has a story—the papaya that grew from abandoned soil while she was away; the gift of a pineapple plant from a friend who was moving (and subsequent plants from the tops of harvested pineapples); and the surprise of how successfully asparagus thrives in this climate. Her favorite story, though, was of her prized Homestead tomatoes. In her charming accent, she told me of the popularity of this sweet, large, pink tomato in her native Bulgaria. Other tomatoes were a big disappointment to her, “Flavor of cardboard!” She arranged to have seeds sent to Florida so she could grow them here. Of course, she shared them with a fellow gardener in the neighborhood, as gardeners so often do. Curious, this fellow gardener sought to learn more about this variety of tomato, and discovered it had originally been developed here in Florida! While it grew well in this climate and was resistant to many of the pests that devour our crops, it did not travel well. The ability to ship is, as we have long known, much more important than flavor in commercial agriculture. The variety, therefore, is not well-known. Blossoms are forming on the plants now – I will be interested to see this pink tomato as the season continues.
We discussed my project and how this is a wonderful means of learning more about my new home and become acquainted with the people of my wider neighborhood. We discussed the miracle of growing food – any of us who have gardened anywhere know that we cannot force this miracle. We can encourage, water, fertilize, weed, but we cannot make a single blossom form. That is from God alone. We talked of the advantages of growing our own food: we choose how to deal with pests and nourish our crop. Rosa uses compost and natural fertilizers. No chemicals allowed. The pests are something to be coped with, but insecticides are not an option for her food.
She hates to see waste. When our food is both work and miracle, it seems a shame to let new little plants go to waste. So she nurtures new plants and saplings, and the ones that she cannot use in her verdant little yard, she sells for a small fee to good homes. Not that she seeks a profit from these new plants, but that she knows that human nature calls for at least some payment to ensure the buyer has a genuine commitment to the small green life being uprooted and moved. So if you are looking to grow short plantains, or avocado, or papaya, or mango, call Rosa at (321)752-7736. She will sell a small tree for only $2. I know where I am going when I am ready to start planting.