Wednesday, 7 May 2014

AWWWW, NO MANGO! @ Thistletown Collegiate

AWWWW, NO MANGO! @ Thistletown Collegiate

Soooo…what should we include in the TCI garden this year?
You want to plant mango in the garden??
Yeah, yeah! Mango!
Ok, ok.  Sure, we can plant mango.  But first, how about just for a minute you pretend that you are a mango tree, ok? Take off your wool toque and scarf, and your Canada Goose jacket.  Mango trees absolutely refuse wearing such hideous winter garments.  Now just stand there.  That’s it, now, are you enjoying that thrilling Toronto April wind gusting across the schoolyard, you little mango sapling?
Awww, no mango?!
Oh, has April been cold? Oh, really, we barely noticed.  This spring has been too busy and amazing – especially with so many coming out to enjoy the sun and spring temperatures - teachers, principals, chefs, students, parents, neighbours, community volunteers, partner organizations, OISE interns, squirrels, robins, sparrows, gold finches, garlic, strawberry, chives, oregano, lovage, sorrel, currants, chamomile, catnip, yarrow, sunflower, mint, thyme, raspberry! 

Who can wait to check out everything that’s happening in the garden at this time of the year? So did Earth Day discussions and activities also help capture the community’s attention on the importance of waste and garbage, composting, water conservation, organic agriculture, locavore diets, and fossil fuel consumption.
There’s no doubt that through experiencing its sights and scents, we see that the garden brings alive a magical and grounding appreciation and connection with nature, and an affinity to environmental stewardship.  Likewise, the garden draws the community together, and draws focus on some of the critical issues of our neighborhoods and of our world – systems of power that perpetuate poverty and poor health, and that hasten global climate change and heightened food insecurities. 

If you haven’t yet checked out the TCI garden, please stop by!

Well, ok, fine, there’s no point in denying the weather has been a tad cool this April.  And what a seriously wild winter we had!  Everybody’s definitely feeling that, enough is enough, feeling.  Still, although we’ve had a bit of a slow start to the growing season, the cool winds and temperatures aren’t stopping preparations going on in the garden. 
With the whole community getting together and pitching in to help out on weekends, during regular school hours, and/or after school, the majority of the garden has now been organized into raised garden beds with mulched woodchip pathways (Big thanks to Cohen and Master for their generous donation of woodchip mulch!).  Building raised beds has made an incredible improvement to the garden! Unlike last year, we haven’t had any significant difficulties with the garden flooding.  And, the soil in the garden beds warmed up relatively fast, so we’ve been able to put out lots of cold weather crop seeds, including (organic!!!) peas, lettuce, radish, spinach. (Big thanks to Toronto Seed Library and Seeds for Change for generous donations of organic seeds!)

But, so what, no mango tree seeds?
No, no mango, sorry.  But, the TCI garden did receive a generous donation of something extra special for this garden season from an amazing community supporter of PACT Grow to Learn Schoolyard Gardening Program. 
There is a fruit that you’ve almost certainly never seen, heard of, or tasted, which is often described as tasting like a cross between mango and banana with a vanilla, custard-like texture. 
That sounds amazing!
Oh, it is.  It’s part of a fruit tree family common to tropical regions, and of which twenty-seven varieties are found scattered throughout the United States, from northern Florida to southern Maine, and all the way to eastern Nebraska.  It’s even indigenous to Southern Ontario’s Carolinian forest, and was ubiquitous in southern Ontario a century ago, but is relatively unknown amongst Canadians today. Over the last several years, an ever-growing community of local enthusiasts is taking action to return this native tree species to an important component of local food culture.   It is also the currently the subject of extensive research as it’s been identified as having powerful cancer fighting properties.
Wow! So what is it?
It’s scientific name is Asimina Triloba, but depending on who you ask, you might hear it called Poor Man’s Banana, Indiana Banana, or Pawpaw. If you’re familiar with soursop, sweetsop, or custard apple, it’s from the same fruit tree family.
Needless to say, the students were eager to begin! They’ve lamented the fact that mango trees are not a viable fruit tree option in Etobicoke ever since the first days of the garden project.
During this 2014 growing season the PACT Grow to Learn Schoolyard Gardening Program at TCI will be experimenting with the propagation of pawpaw trees from seed. 
Please visit our blog throughout the 2014 growing season for updates, and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at

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