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Each year, the garden changes a little. On a visit a couple of years ago, the beautiful Long Island Cheese pumpkins were ready for harvest and the borage was in full bloom. This time there were jewel-like eggplants and Green Hubbard squash growing, plus the addition of a large Three Sisters garden – where corn, beans and squash support each other in their own little ecosystem. The settlers were taught this way of gardening by their Indigenous neighbours.
Summer student Matthew Elliott leads me through the garden, showing me the gooseberry and red currant bushes, the rhubarb and strawberry patches, the turnips, onions, kohlrabi, cabbages, kale, celery, salsify, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, peppers, beets, sorrel and chard. There are herbs like catmint, chamomile, spearmint and lemon balm. Flowers are planted intermittently throughout – serving to beautify, to scent, and to attract pollinators to the garden. More than 120 varieties of plants are grown in the garden and all are heirloom varieties that date back to the mid-1800s. Seeds are saved or sourced through heirloom seed companies. All of the produce is either used at Bellevue House or donated to Loving Spoonful.
Bellevue House gardener Ella Wright, who has just finished up her tenure at the property, said the thing that struck her most from her time in the garden was, “How disconnected we have become to where our food actually comes from.”
The corollary may well be that being back in the garden is the very thing that reconnects us to our food.
For more information on Bellevue House, including the apple-tasting table (while apples are in season) or the weekend Tea & Treat program held every Saturday and Sunday during the summer from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (where you might sample teas made from herbs grown in the garden along with old-fashioned baked goods made with whatever is available in the garden), go online to www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/on/bellevue.
Lindy Mechefske is the award-winning author of Out of Old Ontario Kitchens and Sir John’s Table. Contact her at lindymechefske.com.