Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Ethnic Diversity in the Gardens of Philadelphia

garden song

Pigeon Peas and
Banana Trees

by Libby J. Goldstein

You can see the flow of people and their plants in gardens. Fava beans arose in Egypt and moved to China, Italy and Britain. Gardeners with roots in all those countries grow them here. I grow the black radish, sorrel and pattypan squash we ate at home.

Southeast Asians brought seeds with them in the 1970's. They plant lemon and Thai basil in "crazy mixed up" beds with mustards, ginger, gourds and beans. Their gardens, and many more, can be seen at Common Ground community garden at Island Avenue and Bartram Rd., in Southwest Philadelphia. Farther along Island Avenue, are traditional Southern Italian gardens.

At 64th and Market Streets, you can see African American and Korean gardens and their interplay. Many African Americans plant peanuts, collards and, sometimes, cotton and tobacco "for the kids to see and remember" on raised rows, a West African style. Korean garden beds include hot peppers, huge radishes and greens in profusion.

2305-13 N. Palethorpe Street is Puerto Rico in Philadelphia: a poultry casita, containers, pigeon peas, even bananas. While on 6th Street just below Lehigh, Filipino gardeners grow bitter melon on overhead trellises with yardlong beans.

Philadelphia gardens, like their gardeners, spring from diverse roots.

Libby J. Goldstein was a founder of the Southwark/Queen Village Community Garden in 1976 and became the first coordinator of Penn State's Urban Gardening Program in 1977. She assisted in the development of over 100 community vegetable gardens in Latino neighborhoods between 1983 and 1987. Goldstein wrote the weekly "City Gardener" for the Philadelphia Daily News from 1977 to 1987 and is now president of the Food & Agriculture Task Force.

Go back to Urban Agriculture in Philadelphia

pointer Return to Contents' Page pointer

Revised October 22, 1997

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture