Food Gardens for Defense

I found this book at an antique mall in Monroe, WI. I happened to be there last weekend with some time to spare. I always love poking around antique stores, so I was delighted to find one on the main square in Monroe. I was even more delighted to find this book. It's quite a find!

It's quite old, published in 1942. The author is M.G. Kains, who has several titles listed under his name:

"Special Crop Culturist, US Department of Agriculture;
Formerly Head of Horticulture Department, Pennsylvania State College;
Horticulture Agriculture and Botany Editor, New International Encyclopedia;
Garden Editor, Pictorial Review and other National Magazines;
Lecturer on Horticulture, Colombia University"

That's quite a list!

It's basically a why and how-to garden guide for people planting WWII victory gardens. The victory gardens were encouraged by the government and were intended to take strain off the public food supply while at the same time boosting morale - It's got 29 chapters that instruct people in all the aspects of home food production:

1. Vitamins for Defense - The importance of vitamins to national health.
2. Vegetable Garden Planning
3. Vegetables for the Home Garden
4. Earliest Vegetable Garden Secrets
5. New Vegetable Flavors
6. Vegetable Gardens for the Summer Residence
7. Lengthening the Vegetable Season
8. Harvesting and Storing,
9. Home Fruits for High Quality
10. Dwarf Fruit Trees,
11. Fruit Tree Pruning,
12. Grafting
13. Grapes, Ideal Garden Fruit
14. Bushberries
15. Strawberries
16. Fruit Gardening for the Summer Residence
17. Bug and Blight Control
18. Weeds
19. Tools and Their Care
20. The Soil and it's Improvement
21. Drainage
22. Manures and Fertilizers
23. Liquid Fertilizers
24. Tillage
25. Water and Watering
26. Cover Crop and Green Manures
27. Cold frames and Hotbeds
28. Amateur Greenhouses
29. Seeds and Seedlings

All of this is followed by many wonderful appendices like a chart showing the vitamin profile of common fruits and vegetables, frost dates, how to store vegetables and when to harvest.... all in all this is one of the most plain spoken, easy to use guides to home food production that I've seen.

To make it even cooler, there's several ancient four leaf clovers and maple leaves pressed in the pages. The paper itself is old and in pretty bad shape. It's extremely yellowed and brittle - I feel like I'm going to break the binding it I actually read the whole thing. Regardless, there's something magical about it!

Somewhere over the years, some sort of bug tunneled into it in several places, leaving these very interesting holes.

I also found this receipt in it - I'm not sure if it's from 1942, but judging from the fact that the person bought something at Osco Drug for $0.01, I'm thinking it's pretty old.

I'm mostly fascinated by the content of this book. The parallels to today are unmistakable. This is from the Forward: A Word to Gardeners. forgive me if it gets lengthy, I think it's worth it.

"In recent years there has been a tendency to consider gardening as a hobby. We have tended to look upon such an activity as a luxury, and an expensive one at that. Even the folks in the lower income groups often failed to heed the necessity of having fresh vegetables and fruits in their diets. The more affluent found it all too convenient to stop at the corner grocery store, where a wide variety of fresh and canned vegetables and fruits were temptingly displayed. The can-opener was easy to use compared with the effort a hoe required. Gardening seemed foolish. Yes, an expensive hobby when one could buy carrots at five of ten cents a bunch."

"The wide variety of foods to be had without effort on our part seemed perfect. We had all that we wanted to eat. The National Draft Board took the smugness out of most of us. Their reports told us the great numbers of the nation's youth who could not pass the physical examination. It was incredible, and equally incredible the reason given - undernourishment. This was indeed a shock to a county that prided itself on having the highest standard of living of any nation in the world. Plenty of food and at low cost, but undernourishment."

"Gardening does have something for us besides exercise, something that seemingly does not come out of tin cans. Fresh fruits and vegetables - fresh from the gardens - have health-building and health-protecting vitamins and minerals that cannot be captured and put into tin. They may look the same when cooked, taste the same and smell the same - but are they?"

"A canner cannot always permit the things he puts into cans - fruits and vegetables - to reach that stage of maturity at which the most important vitamins are present in the greatest quantities. Then, too, some of the vitamins are lost in the canning process. Even the fresh vegetables on the shelves at the grocer's are not garden fresh. It usually takes several days - if not weeks - from harvest to market. Even then they probably were not picked at the most nutritive and palatable stage of maturity. Commercial growers must time their harvest according to when the vegetables will ship best and make the most attractive appearance on the display rack."

"A home gardener would be foolish indeed if he were to pick immure fruits for his family to eat. It is the same for the vegetables in his garden. They should be harvested when they are tender, full of flavor, and most nutritious."

"The Federal Government, faced with the reports of the draft boards, called a meeting of experts - health, horticultural, educational, etc. - to work out a program to meet this problem of undernourishment. That group, consisting of representatives of many public and private groups, recommended that increased emphasis be placed on gardens - fruit gardens, vegetables gardens, and flower gardens. Gardens in the country, gardens in suburban areas, and gardens in city backyards - wherever soil, experience and the available labor permitted and production of healthful, nutritious products."

"The program adopted at the Conference has been given wide publicity that our people might be healthier, stronger, and better fitted to meet the present emergency. You and I know that we as a nation should keep ourselves fit, strong, and healthy, able to do our jobs well during this emergency and afterwards."

He goes on to talk about how canning and shipping food takes a lot of energy that could be better spent on the war effort, then these two paragraphs, which I think are my favorite:

"There are concrete reasons why we, as gardeners, should do our part. There are still other reasons for us to do our part even though it does require more effort to wield a hoe than to open a tin can. there are contributions that are not so visible but nevertheless are just as important. The time spent in the garden, the few minutes in the morning before going to work, and the few minutes in the evening are the very best tonic for overwrought nerves. The pleasure obtained in making plants grow and produce - fruit, vegetables, flowers - is the best morale-builder that man can devise. You cannot buy it, but it is there. Yours for the taking

The contact with fresh earth, the feel of early morning sunshine, and the joy that comes from a productive garden make a better workman, one with stronger nerves, a steadier hand, and a spirit that will not bow down or bend under the pressure of the toughest kind of a job. These are some of the reasons behind our National Garden Program. It's up to the gardeners to do their part and to help others to join in raising standards of health and morale."

Wow. I couldn't have said it better myself! It's hard to believe that this is written by an agent of the Agriculture Department, and that this is the same government that 40 years later was claiming ketchup as a vegetable.
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