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Updated: Jul 26, 2019

by Jessya

Jessya's grandmother's aloe plants

Both of my grandmothers lived with me growing up. My parents were immigrants and soon after they established themselves they arranged to bring their parents over to the US. They immigrated from the Soviet Union, and for a period of time we had all four grandparents under our roof. Both of my grandmothers loved plants. They nurtured them. They'd teach me which leaves to pluck out of the fields outside my school to treat warts, and which berries to eat, and where the best mulberry trees were, and which mushrooms to pick and which to leave. We'd have family mushroom hunting afternoons and spend the evenings frying up and marinating mushrooms.

My paternal grandmother treated most things with aloe. Burn? Aloe. Cold? Aloe. It weirded me out. It was snotty and runny and goopy and tasted bad. She passed away a few years ago. When she was getting worse she had to move out of her apartment and we had to distribute her belongings.

I took the two huge aloe plants in their large terracotta planters. They were overgrown and needed to be transferred, so I was able to make many many little plants and still have a huge overgrown pot. I distributed the little plants to friends and family, and continue to do so to this day.

Every time I rub aloe on my own kids after an afternoon in the sun, I remember my grandmother. I love that she lives on in my home through my aloe plant, and has now found her way into many other homes of the people I love. Grandma is all around me, filling my home with aloe and spider plants and my own mulberry hunts with my children. A little part of her will propagate through the generations.

Jessya is a biology teacher, mother, wife, and traveler foodie that lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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Updated: Aug 28, 2019

by Mallika Nocco

A variety of nightshade species on a table

My parents became two opposite people every time we traveled to Bangalore, both trying to cram everything they missed about India into one month. They seemed to revert back into their adolescent selves, each staying with a set of grandparents three blocks away from each other, my father eating six meals a day to keep both his father and his mother-in-law happy.

He would pick me up from my maternal grandparents’ house and take me in an auto-rickshaw to Gandhi Bazaar, a chaotic market filled with all varieties of snacks, spices, and trinkets. I loved these trips. My father seemed a rogue, eating the seductive forbidden street snacks and smoking cigarettes while I drank my grandmother’s specially prepared boiled, filtered water from a bottle.

It was in the middle of Gandhi Bazaar, I saw him do something baffling for the first time. From a street vendor, he picked up a luscious, fragrant tomato and bit into it, like an apple. “DAD!!! That’s a TOMATO! You can’t eat it like that!” He shook his head sadly at my ignorance. “In India you can. You don’t get tomatoes like this in Minnesota, not even from the farmer’s market. They are fruits, you know.”

When he dropped me off at my mother’s house (I preferred staying there due to far better mosquito control and food), she exclaimed at my dirty feet, making me scrub them on the stone floor before making my favorite dish of cucumber-tomato Raita, a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and home-made yoghurt. My mother’s true love of tomatoes only manifested itself in the dead of our Minnesota winters. Under fluorescent lights in the grocery aisles, she would look at the pale, dry tomatoes, and almost come to tears. “They look like vampires got to them first and sucked out all of their life! Do you remember how delicious the Raita was at your Ajji’s house, Malli?” “Yes, Mom,” I would say, embarrassed at her vivid show of emotion in the produce section.

My parents, possessing strong ideals about the way I should live my life, showed little support for any of my life decisions: college major, husband, job, home. It is amazing—the first and only time I have ever glimpsed true pride in my abilities from my parents was last fall, upon tasting my home-grown organic Brandywines and Green Zebras. “They taste even better than the tomatoes in INDIA!” my mother exclaimed. My father, never one to verbally express his affection, picked one up and bit into it like an apple.

Mallika "Nightshade" Nocco is an agroecologist, a founder of Plant Love Stories, and a 2017 Smith Fellow. This story (previously published here) once won her free tickets to TomatoFest.

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by Becky Barak

Many of my plant love stories are actually stories about teachers that helped me see the world in a new way. High school biology class was maybe the first time I started thinking about plants as really, truly alive (and now I’m a botanist, so I guess we all grow up). My teacher had taught us about transpiration -- the flow of water up from the roots of a plant all the way up to the leaves -- against gravity and driven by evaporation. On the way home from school, picturing the single, unbroken chain of water droplets, I looked at the trees with a new appreciation for the secrets within them.

In college I took a class on the flora of New Jersey. It was the first time I worked to identify the species of plants around me. To create my “natural history collection” for a class assignment, I ran around campus, in the rain, with my brand new plant identification book, collecting sticky pine cones, mushy walnut fruits, and spiky sweetgum balls. I took the specimens back to my dorm room, lovingly arranged and photographed each one using my rain poncho as a draped background. I still remember my professor’s notes on that assignment, which included the phrase, “egregious misidentification.” Over time I got better at identifying trees. My misidentifications became less egregious. I started to get to know the species a little bit better. They became acquaintances, and some even became old friends. As I got to know their names my world grew. Now I own a whole stack of plant identification books, and I can identify seedlings a few days after they sprout.

Plants are important. Not just because they absorb carbon dioxide and stormwater, and provide habitat for our favorite animal species - though they do. Plants are touchpoints for our lives. They help us fall in love, with nature and with each other. They remind me of my grandmas. They’re so many more things that I don’t even know yet because you haven’t yet shared your plant love story. You have a plant love story even if you don’t yet know you have one. You don’t have to be a plant expert or a scientist to have a story, and honestly they’re probably more interesting if you aren’t. We’re collecting these stories to show how plants affect us all. Share your story, and help us grow.

Becky "Rudbeckia" Barak is a plant community and restoration ecologist, a founder of Plant Love Stories, and a 2017 Smith Fellow studying biodiversity and restoration in the midwestern tallgrass prairie. Becky tweets about plants (and a few other things) at @BeckSamBar and still occasionally misidentifies plants.

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