I was flummoxed a few days ago by a series of emails on the list-serve of ‘The Association for the Study of Food and Society‘ regarding the definition of ‘a vegetable/fruit garden’.
This had to do with rules of a Home Owner’s Association that defined a few veggies and fruit trees on one of their member’s lawn as constituting a ‘vegetable garden’ which, according to the Association, was not allowed.
Wait, what’s going on here? When is the definition of a ‘food garden’ – versus a (uh) a ‘garden-garden’?
Let’s add some perspective to this interesting existential quandary, by moving away from rules applied to members of a home owner’s association – to real-life, ‘mixed’ gardens in Africa and elsewhere.
Take a look at the picture in my last blog, showing a contemporary woman with hoe and kids standing in front of her home. The garden surrounding her home is lovely and green – and all eatable: beer and sweet bananas with beans planted underneath.
And take a look at the lawns surrounding this home in the neighboring village:
Here is the front garden of a friend’s house who lives upcountry, which appears to fall more in line with what in the US is considered a garden:
Then again, perhaps we can consider an entire community to be a garden:
‘Even’ BaTwa pygmy homes in Burundi are often surrounded by gardens of vegetables – which are carefully tended by hand during the dry season to bring greenness to the bleak surroundings where they have been settled by the government:
And then there is my former home here in Burundi, (which is actually just next door to where I now live). It appears to have a ‘normal’ ‘garden. However, everything planted is either fodder for the livestock (goats and a donkey) or people-food:
Further afield, in the oasis of Siwa in the Libyan Desert, about which I blogged earlier, the entire oasis is a garden – primarily of palms and olives. These, together with a variety of vegetables, are planted such that every inch of cultivatable land is used. And used in accordance with complex land ownership and irrigation rights that are past down in families.
Thanks to the discussion on the ASFS List-Serve, which caused me stop and take account of what ‘gardens’ can mean to different people in different places. And that there is probably no platonic ideal of a garden, no matter what Home Owner’s Associations may want to believe.