IT’S HARD TO MISS the overflowing P-Patch gardens as you walk along the Chief Sealth Trail in the Rainier Valley. Skinny squashes and long purple beans dangle down through trellises. Corn stalks with tiny white ears wave in the wind. What draws me in are all the plants I can’t name.
I wanted a chance to explore these plots that looked so different from my own. Tomatoes and broccoli and cauliflower dominate my garden, whereas these P-Patchers grow gourds, beans and herbs I’ve never seen at a grocery store.
Many Southeast Asian immigrants I profiled for the story came from farming families or grew much of their own food in their birth countries. The P-Patches provide them a place to continue that custom and grow food for their family and neighbors. It’s a way to cultivate traditional food that can be hard, if not impossible, to find in Seattle.
The women welcomed me into their plot, insisting I taste a bit of everything they were growing. The best parts of reporting this story was discovering, across our different languages and backgrounds, how growing and harvesting our own food rooted us to our community.