Councillor Shelley Carroll

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Toronto Star Article by Joe Fiorito - Oriole Peanut Community Garden

In today's Toronto Star, Joe Fiorito wrote about the Oriole Peanut Community Garden!

A Garden Full of Tasty Victories

Aug 15, 2007
By: Joe Fiorito

"This is mine," said Salah Chaya. He was pointing at a patch of tomatoes in the community garden on the grounds of the Advent Lutheran Church, in the north end of town, on the edge of the Oriole Peanut.

Salah is not a professional gardener, although you'd never know it by looking at his crop.
He said, "I am a PhD engineer. I worked in a steam power plant in Lebanon. I came here seven years ago on the 28th September. I came to see a peaceful country. I have kids." As if there were another reason.

His tomatoes hung heavy on the vine. Did he have a garden back in Lebanon? He pursed his lips and shrugged into a memory. "I had 1,000 metres square, for vegetables and fruit." His patch here is 3 metres square, tops, in a garden shared by many others.

He parted the spiky leaves of one of his plants and picked a cherry tomato. It was a jewel in his hand. "Here, eat." I ate. The jewel exploded in my mouth. He sensed what had happened and picked me a handful, and he did not stop picking until I asked him to, and you will forgive me if I was not very quick to stop him; that is how good his tomatoes were, and if you were to warm them to bursting in some olive oil and use them, with fresh basil and salt, to dress a bowl of pasta, you would think you were in paradise; that is also how good they were.

Salah then pointed to some low bushes with thick, clean, deep green leaves. "This is molokya, a Lebanese herb; we boil, and put with meat or chicken, and after that we put rice. It is found in the Middle East." I tried one of the leaves, unboiled. It was pleasantly bitter. I tried another with one of the cherry tomatoes, and the whole of the taste was greater than the sum of the parts.

Salah had other varieties of tomato, bigger, fatter, just as red.
"These are without any chemical or genetic moderation." He picked another handful.
I feigned reluctance. He urged. "Here, take, it's good for the blood."
In that case ...

The Oriole Peanut community garden is now two years old. There have been several changes since I was here last year. The church has given more of its grounds to agriculture. If there were 50 gardeners then, there are at least 100 families involved now.
Marian Smith is the co-ordinator of the garden. She is one of those people who, when it comes to getting things done, is irresistible. She somehow managed to get a free garden makeover; there are new raised beds here, and handsome trees there, and a kind of circular garden for herbs. The work had just been completed. The beds will be planted soon. Marian said, "If you take into account the extended families, this garden helps feed somewhere around 700, maybe 900, people."

Salah said, "Here we have Lebanese white zucchini. This makes the garden international."
Better still, there were several international women and children who were busy weeding and watering.

And there was a time when you would have called this a victory garden. It is altogether another kind of victory.

Suppertime was almost upon us, and the men were beginning to arrive from work. Marian called everyone to come inside and clean up and have something to eat; pot luck.

She said, "We're having a meeting about the garden. I've learned not to call this a garden meeting. I call it a garden party. If everyone gets something to eat, attendance is usually good."
More on Friday.