Asian crops flourish in a Filipina nurse’s garden in the US

Maricor finds cabbage cultivation fun.

By Vina Medenilla

Culture can be expressed in many ways, whether through language, traditions, fashion, or food. And when we say food, it’s not just about the cooked meal on the table, but it can also mean how the ingredients are grown. 

A good illustration of this is the story of a Pinay nurse in California, USA.

Maricor, as she prefers to be called, maintains a garden that is full of Philippine veggies every summer, as well as crops that do well in their zone. 

This Bicolana has always loved gardening. Even though resources and skills used to be scarce, she fondly remembers picking mangoes, bananas, and other fruits, and tending to the flowers in the front yard of her childhood home.

She has been living in the US for more than 10 years, but she has not forgotten her origins.

“Bok Choy or pechay, one of our favorite vegetables to eat. It’s so easy to grow as they do well during Spring here in our zone,” says the Pinay full-time nurse and plant hobbyist.

About 13 years ago, Maricor and her husband were fortunate to acquire a property with fruit trees in the backyard. Their relocation to this house eventually led to the nurse taking up gardening.

The couple bonds over gardening and learns from each other through it. Her husband taught her how to preserve fruit using techniques that were passed down through his family.

Together, they preserve fruits for year-round use by freezing, drying, or making jams out of them.

Maricor’s biggest upo to date. The upo in this photo is called Cucuzza squash.

As of this writing, the Filipino-American couple had planted 25 fruit trees in their 1300-square-meter garden, including apples, cherries, figs, lemons, loquats, oranges, peaches, persimmons, plums, pomelos, and tangerines. The apricots and plums ripen first, whereas persimmons ripen last, typically in late November or December.

They have a variety of berries as well, including blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Most of these berries are frozen, but they are also used to produce jam.

From the Philippines to the Golden State

Brassica vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are Maricor’s favorite crops to raise since they are manageable to grow, particularly in the spring.

Maricor finds cabbage cultivation fun.

Every summer, she also cultivates vegetables native to the Philippines or other Asian countries. They include ampalaya, upo, patola, kangkong, pechay, sitaw, kamatis, sibuyas, bawang, talong, kalabasa, and malunggay.

Since her garden experiences all four seasons, she plants in the spring and fall to be able to harvest during summer and winter. 

The garden has automatic watering for most parts, so she can focus on pruning, weeding, and planting new sprouts. She also chooses to keep the garden free of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, so she composts kitchen wastes and lets the worms feed on them.

Maricor and her tomato plants.

Crop production is not always easy, even in other parts of the world. 

In Maricor’s garden, gophers and raccoons are the biggest nuisances.

“[Gophers] are rodents that burrow tunnels under the ground and they eat the roots of plants. It’s hard to get rid of them since they are under the ground and we can’t see where they are.”

She continues, “We planted banana trees for a year, and one day, we found them laying on the ground–the gophers had eaten all the roots. Following that, we started growing in raised beds with wire screens under to prevent these rodents from eating the roots.” 

Raccoons, which usually attack at night, also climb into their fruit trees, causing the branches to break off. These creatures also dig the ground to look for worms, which results in a lot of disturbance in the garden and harm to some plants.

“So far, we resolved the issue by trapping them and relocating them away from our house. Hopefully, they won’t come back.”

Maricor holding a bitter melon or ampalaya she is waiting to ripen so she can gather the seeds.

Maricor’s enthusiasm and understanding of plant cultivation have tremendously progressed, which helps her connect to her roots.

Photos by Maricor

For more information, visit Maricor’s Instagram account

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Vina Medenilla
Vina Medenilla is a content producer for Agriculture Monthly magazine. She is a graduate from Miriam College with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. Fashion, photography, and travel are some of the things she loves. For her, connection with nature is essential to one’s life.

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