Roses always appear in images of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, patron saint of bakers and beggars, a courageous young woman whose feast day will be celebrated next Saturday. She was the wife of a prince, but she repeatedly defied the royal court to distribute bread to the hungry and homeless. On one such mission, a soldier stopped her in the street and angrily demanded to know what was concealed in her cloak. “I am carrying roses,” she replied. He pulled the cloak away, and to his astonishment (and probably Elizabeth’s, as well) all the bread had indeed been transformed into roses.
I thought of St. Elizabeth today as I worked on transplanting two flats of collards, which will be grown to donate to Bay Area Food Bank. And I thought about Plant a Row for the Hungry, a creative and successful program that encourages gardeners to plant an extra row to help food banks and soup kitchens. Since garden writer Jeff Lowenfels started PAR in 1994, participating gardeners have donated more than 10 million pounds of fresh produce. Considering that each pound is estimated to yield four meals, those extra rows can prevent lot of folks from going to bed hungry.
Here in the warm coastal climate zone, winter is our most pleasant growing season. Temperatures are moderate and pesky insects are scarce. The petunias that struggled through the blistering 100-degree days of July and August are growing like mad now. The broccoli is enormous, the snow pea vines rapidly ascending, the cabbages and cauliflower expanding daily. Garlic, shallots and leeks are up. Best of all… this afternoon, the Perfect Man completed the big, new raised bed destined to house all the culinary herbs.