Kathryn Fontenot | 12/7/2009 7:48:29 PM
Holidays are often associated with gift giving. Buying for friends, family, and co-workers can become a financial burden. Who do I give to? How much do I spend? These questions can leave one feeling overwhelmed. Instead of fighting heavy traffic and the mad rush of Black Friday shoppers, find an old basket or a recycled grocery sack and head outside. A gift from the garden is more thoughtful and personal than many store bought goods.
Ray and Linda Landry, a semi-retired couple in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, give from their garden. The Landrys have a small orchard planted in their yard. They are currently harvesting satsumas, navels, grapefruit, lemons, tangelos, and kumquats. Ray and Linda planted 7 citrus trees in 2001 and have added trees each year totaling 30 citrus trees to date. Ray removed all fruit from the trees during the first two seasons to encourage vegetative growth. During the third year, the Landrys were able to begin picking and giving! Since then, they have more fruit than they know what to do with.
Ray and Linda are continuing the tradition of giving from the garden. Ray’s father always grew a large garden. Chuckling, Ray mentioned that when his mama said she had enough, his father would pick the rest, load it in his truck, and drive to White Castle, Louisiana. There he would give produce away to anyone who came by. Ray fondly remembers his daddy coming home with deer sausage and fresh fish. People returned the giving to his father. Linda’s parents owned 20 acres in St. Gabriel. They raised cattle on most of the land and grew gardens on the rest. “Families had to be resourceful during the depression. People didn’t have much to eat,” said Linda. Her father and a neighbor who owned no land grew gardens together. Using two mules, the men went to work growing enough vegetables to feed both families which totaled 12 children!
This year the Landrys have given fruit to friends, family, and the local senior citizen center. The Landrys also contributed citrus for the St. Gabriel Altar Society's fruit baskets for shut-ins. Their car is packed with 175 oranges, 100 grapefruit, 100 navels, 150 tangelos, and plenty of lemons and tangerines. This load of citrus is going to the Tidel Christmas party, a company in Texas where Ray was once employed. Linda said, “The spirit of giving has been handed down from one generation to the next.” The Landrys have just completed construction of their new home and plan on adding a vegetable garden to their yard this spring.
Even if you don’t have a fruit orchard in your yard, you may have a vegetable garden. Give from that. A head of broccoli, cauliflower, or a cabbage might just make someone’s day. It will certainly be a gift that gives you a warm feeling without hurting your pocket.
Don’t have a garden? That’s ok. You can still give the gift of fresh, locally grown produce. Visit one of Louisiana’s many farmers markets and put together gift baskets of your own. Cool season vegetables that are in season now include radishes, beets, carrots, turnips, broccoli, collards, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, mustard greens, lettuce, and Brussels sprouts. Fruit currently being harvested includes satsumas, navels, lemons, grapefruit, and kumquats.
Information on Louisiana’s farmers markets can be found by visiting the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry's Web site.
Additional information on growing and harvesting vegetables can be found on the LSU AgCenter’s Web site.
Happy harvesting and holidays!