Family Heirloom: Golden Currant, Weeping Fig, ‘Cherokee’ Purple Tomato, and More

Readers share stories of treasured family plants

| Spring 2018

  • golden currant (Ribes aureum)
    The yellow flowers of golden currant (Ribes aureum) produce a pleasantly spicy aroma.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Svetlana Ileva
  • Hilary Harder
    It’s funny, when you’ve had a tree for this long, it becomes more of a family member than a mere plant.
    Photo by Hilary Harder
  • ‘Cherokee Purple' tomatoes
    ‘Cherokee Purple’ has become my favorite tomato. The fruits aren’t the perfect, cylindrical, red tomatoes many people prefer, but their flavor is second to none.
    Photo by Robert Copeland

  • golden currant (Ribes aureum)
  • Hilary Harder
  • ‘Cherokee Purple' tomatoes

The Scent of Golden Currant

My grandmother grew a bush with small yellow flowers, which, come spring, would bloom and fill the air with a fragrance like fresh cinnamon. You could smell it just walking by, like fresh spice wafting in the breeze. The bush would flower profusely, but ultimately produced very little fruit.

When I decided to leave home and move into my first house, I took a cutting of my grandmother’s flowering golden currant with me. I’ve since lived in several different houses, and I’ve taken a cutting of that bush with me to every new home. In spring, when I smell the hint of cinnamon in the air as I walk by the bush, or as I garden nearby, it brings out the feelings of a happy childhood and memories of my grandmother.

Lorraine Chambers

Chatham, Ontario



New Life With New Plants

My foster mom had a company, Anything Grows, which specialized in tropical plantscapes. The time I spent with her began a lifelong love of plants for me. I used the skills I learned from her to begin working in nurseries, eventually gardening and landscaping myself.

At 19 years old I moved into my first apartment, and was in need of a few tropical plants. Naturally, I asked Bonnie (my foster mom) if she had any to spare. She showed up with multiple trees, including fragrant dracaena (Dracaena fragrans) and a lovely braided weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) that was otherwise destined for the burn pile.

I’ve moved numerous times through the years and I’ve always taken that fig with me. It’s been with me throughout many new memories. It’s funny, when you’ve had a tree for this long, it becomes more of a family member than a mere plant.

People always say ficus are finicky and hard to grow, but the key to success with my ficus has been allowing it to dry out, and then fully saturating the soil when watering. This pattern has allowed my ficus to thrive without the hindrance of soggy, rotten roots. When re-potting tropical plants, it’s better to go up several pot sizes to allow for healthy root growth, too.

I feel grateful that I get to do what I love, and most importantly, be around plants! This tree reminds me of all I’ve learned over the years and the many things I’m grateful for.

Hilary Harder

‘Cherokee Purple’: A Favorite Heirloom Tomato

The ‘Cherokee Purple’ heirloom tomato always produces for my Zone 7 garden. This hearty heirloom variety withstands the heat, diseases, pests, and usually sparse rainfall in my area. Well, the rainfall has been immense the past two years, so my job has been an easy one: I pick the ripe fruits daily, and if I make it to the house with any left, I share.

I first bought the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds six years ago and I’ve saved seeds from harvest every year. ‘Cherokee Purple’ has become my favorite. The fruits aren’t the perfect, cylindrical, red tomatoes many people prefer, but their flavor is second to none. As prolific as Texas sagebrush, they continue to stock my shelves in Mason jars (mixed with oregano, thyme, parsley, garlic, and onion for the best pasta sauce you’ve ever had), and they’re served sliced with almost every meal from June to November.

I highly recommend the purple-hued, green-shouldered, massive variety for anyone who loves old-time tomato flavor. Last year, after record-breaking spring rains, I picked dozens weighing over 1 pound. It only takes two or three of these to make a jar of delicious pasta sauce!

If you can’t find any ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes locally, almost every heirloom vegetable dealer sells the seeds online. Do yourself a favor and grow this awesome tomato variety to feed your family and friends. You’ll not regret adding the ‘Cherokee Purple’ to your garden and table.



Robert D. Copeland

Olney, Texas

Peas for Mom

I grew up in Ohio with a mother who survived the Great Depression, which meant we always had gardens bursting with produce each summer. She knew what it was like to go hungry, and she didn’t want her children to ever have that same experience.

I’d frequently rise earlier in the summer than I did during the school year in order to help harvest from the gardens. I didn’t know it at the time, but the rituals my mother taught me would help shape my future habits with my own garden someday.

We planted peas in the garden every summer without fail. Despite my mother’s scolding about needing every morsel for winter stores, I loved to pick a few fresh from the little vines and pop them in my mouth to savor their sweet crunch. In Northeastern Ohio, the winters could be tough. Autumn always meant prepping and preserving the bounty from the garden.

My mother has since passed away, but I still plant peas. I’m not into preserving them nowadays. I choose to eat them fresh, immediately from the vine. When the first pea pods of the season are ready, I always remember my mother. As long as I live, I’ll have peas in my garden.

Barbara Rush

North Hollywood, California










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