When I was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was less built out, and many more vacant lots and wild areas were closer to the population. During the early spring and late winter, these areas would become a bright yellow with blooms of wild mustard. Before the mustard would flower, my mother used to go to these areas and harvest wild mustard greens for us to eat. Any way to stretch a tight budget was welcome back then. New America Media has an article that made me reminisce about those days. “When Eating Organic Was Totally Uncool” is the story of growing up in a Hmong refugee family and how Hmong families grew their own vegetables not only to survive but as a connection to their old way of life.
I can really relate to this story. Both of my parents come from farming families, and they still raise their own vegetables. Some of these are Filipino fruits and vegetables and some are not. I remember working in the yard as a kid helping to tend these plants.
Nowadays, while I see it once in a while, it’s much rarer to see Asian families going to vacant lots and harvesting what’s there. It can even be hazardous, as some Asian families have been poisoned by harvesting wild mushrooms. The ready availability of Ranch 99 markets, while potentially hazardous also, makes it much easier to get Asian greens. Hmong are making a living now at farming, as they are often at local farmers markets. Still, when the Bay Area hills are a blaze of yellow, I think back to my youth.