Throughout the letters that my grandmother, Vera Anderson, wrote from Killbuck Ohio to my mother in Ames Iowa in 1943, she included many reference to her World War II garden.
Victory Gardens were just one of the many ways that everyday citizens on the homefront were enlisted to help the war effort. The government helped people learn how to grow gardens, gave them brochures and recipe books to take advantage of the vegetables they grew and exhorted them to save the produce grown by farmers for the troops. And of course–Posters!
I’m pretty sure, however, that Grandma never thought of her World War II garden as a Victory Garden–let alone a Munition Plant. She planted gardens every year. She was still doing so more than ten years after the war when my family lived in Killbuck and my father also planted a garden. People in small rural communities like Killbuck did not need the government to tell them that growing gardens could save money and provide healthy eating. They always planted in the spring and harvested everything before the first hard frost.
Grandma grew flowers as enthusiastically as she grew vegetables–possibly more so, because flowers caused a lot less work, as you can see below. An apple tree in her back yard provided small, misshapen but delicious apples as long as I could remember.
In her letters she is as obsessed with the effect of weather on the crops as any farmer would be.
Grandma Writes about Her World War II Garden
Undated letter, probably October 4th :
Letter written October 12, 1943
Later in the letter, she says,
Unfortunately, Grandma did not leave recipe cards for these items. If you would like to make something like her green tomato and mango relish, check out this recipe that I found for “green tomato pickle” in a Mennonite cookbook. Or you might want to try grandma’s recipe for “red pepper jam”. I wrote about her canning in general and in a later article related my experience in following her recipe for “red pepper jam.” When you read these articles you will see that it would take A LOT of “mangoes” to make 16 pts of relish!
In an undated letter probably written in soon after the one above, Oct 13? she wrote:
Another undated October letter remarks on the weather, “No killing frost yet.” then later says:
But she is starting work at her GoodYear “Rosie the Riveter” job, so she would have no time for her World War II garden, even if the weather were favorable. Another letter in October says that Irene, my father’s sister, is busy canning. Irene was a prize-winning gardener. November letters have remarks about rain and December it is ice and cold weather. But Grandma and Daddy Guy would have vegetables galore all winter.
While other vegetables had been harvested earlier in the summer–beans, peas, cucumbers, and most had been canned, at the end of the year, we hear that she is canning tomato catsup, tomato juice, green tomato relish and sauerkraut. Her basement shelves were full of those jewel-tones in glass jars (like these from a farmer’s market) created from Grandma’s World War II garden.