Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Garden of eatin'

Couple's backyard is overflowing with the fruits -- and veggies -- of their labour

  • Print

When the Garofalos bought a home in Crestview in the late '70s, their yard wasn't a feast for the eyes.

"When I came here there was a big lot," said Raffaele Garofalo.

More than 30 years later, every spare inch of the Italian-Canadian Winnipegger's backyard is growing something good to eat.

"It's heaven," said the retired chef who immigrated from Italy nearly 60 years ago.

These days, Garofalo is catering to hundreds of plants hung with huge zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, beans and grapes. Thickets of oregano and basil ring the yard.

The side of his house next to the neighbour's is packed with more tomatoes. In the spring, Garofalo takes advantage of that narrow strip's southern exposure to start his plants from seed. He's designed a greenhouse using sheets of glass and Styrofoam and starts 200 to 300 plants.

Garofalo started off small in 1979, growing some Swiss chard and beets, learning as he went.

"I know a little bit from the old country," said Garofalo, who hails from Avellino near Naples. "We had a little bit of land."

His wife, Silvia, came from a farm in Abruzzi near Rome in 1954. They grew grain, corn, beans, potatoes and "things you could preserve for the winter." Money was tight, said Silvia, who grew up with seven siblings.

"We didn't have a store close by. Walking, it would take half a day to get to town."

She came to Canada for a better life. At a wrestling match in Winnipeg, mutual friends introduced her to Raffaele.

He'd come to Canada in 1953 at the age of 20 with no knowledge of English -- just $54 and some French he'd learned slaving away in coal mines in Belgium.

In Winnipeg, he got a job at CP Rail making 56 cents an hour.

Today, the Garofalos are both retired with great-grandkids.

They share a love for gardening, from spring planting to summer weeding and preserving the produce in the fall -- or sooner.

By the middle of August, they've already prepared a dozen jars of preserved beets and pickles.

"There'll be 30 to 40 jars of each, for sure," said their daughter, Anna, who dropped by for a visit on a Tuesday afternoon.

Her parents have two kitchens, two fridges and two huge freezers to fill with Swiss chard, beets, corn, peppers, leeks, potatoes and all kinds and sizes of tomatoes and beans.

They grow Roma beans for soup, green beans for supper and string beans for garden-raiding rabbits.

Rabbits snatch all their string beans and lately a lot of lettuce, Silvia said.

"That's OK. They've got to eat, too."

The Garofalos are happy to share their bounty.

The other day, a neighbour couldn't fit the zucchini they gave her in a grocery bag.

"She carried it like a baby," said Silvia, whose zucchini lasagna is the couple's favourite dish.

Clumps of Concord grapes hang from a shady, cool arbour of densely packed vines. "They're good for jelly," says Silvia.

Out in the sun amid the beanstalks and tomato stakes, the occasional cosmo flower pops up in the Italian vegetable patch.

"They're good for the garden. The bees like them," said Raffaele.

The Garofalos don't try to make their garden organic. They're just doing what they've learned the plants like.

The only fertilizer they use is manure from sheep and cows, mostly sheep, because it's better for the soil, he said.

Before the winter, Raffaele puts the garden to bed, slowly and gently turning the soil with a shovel.

They reap the benefits of their devotion.

"A garden needs a person all the time," Silvia said.

"I do it because I love it," said Raffaele.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 j4

History

Updated on Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 9:37 AM CDT: adds photo

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Wasylycia-Leis says Bowman and Ouellette ran a good campaign

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Young goslings jostle for position to take a drink from a puddle in Brookside Cemetery Thursday morning- Day 23– June 14, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS STANDUP - pretty sunflower in field off HWY 206 near Bird's Hill Park Thursday August 09/2007

View More Gallery Photos

  • Africa edition

    Africa is one complex and gloriously unmanageable 'theme' to choose to kick off our 2012 series, Our City Our World, which is why it took up the whole newspaper on Jan. 18.

  • China edition

    Hard-working Chinese immigrants, once banned, have risen to the highest echelons of Manitoba.

  • Germany edition

    German immigrants have played a surprisingly large role in the development of the province.

  • Iceland edition

    Arriving in Manitoba in the 1870s unprepared for a brutal winter, Icelandic settlers and their descendants have left their mark on our province.

  • Italy edition

    Industrious Italians rose from peasant roots and adapted to Canadian society by mastering L’art d’arrangiarsi (the art of getting by).

  • Latin America edition

    It used to be the only time Prairie folks met Spanish-speaking people was when they vacationed down south. More often now, they're the people next door.

  • Middle East edition

    When the first Middle East families immigrated to Manitoba, mosques were unheard of and even yogurt was exotic. But now all that has changed.

  • Philippines edition

    A booming Filipino community nearly 60,000 strong has transformed Manitoba.

  • South Asian edition

    As the city's Indo-Canadian population experiences dramatic growth, its pioneers recall their warm Winnipeg welcome.

  • Ukraine edition

    Scarred by Holodomor, the Ukrainian community helped shape Winnipeg's cultural mosaic.

  • United Kingdom edition

    Manitoba's history is built on a foundation provided by settlers from the U.K., who came here seeking better lives.

Poll

Are you surprised the Bombers didn't make the playoffs?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google