Friday, June 23, 2017

Lettuce Turnip the Beet in Mr. Menci's Garden: Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy

We recently got the honor of meeting a local gardener and painter, Gabriele Menci. He took us through his garden and showed us his paintings as we explored through his home. After learning about how the Romans utilized agriculture, I am now able to connect Gabriele's garden to these concepts. What instantly comes to mind is his use of fertilizer. Romans often used natural fertilizers and even gave their plants alcohol. While Gabriele didn't have insight that he gives his plants alcohol as the Romans did, he did explain how he used natural products for fertilizer, and how he utilizes sticks to keep the moisture in surrounding his crops. As Romans relied on the garden for their source of food, The Menci family does as well by growing vegetables, and he did even have chickens (but the foxes ate them according to Gabriele). Gabriele then brings his agriculture and scenery under the Tuscan sun to life with paintings. His home was filled with beautiful paintings, some full of sunflowers and many Italian Cypress trees- which we discussed in lecture. These trees that fill the rolling hills of Italy are often seen as well as the Italian Pine tree which I first remember seeing outside of the Rome airport flying in. Visiting Menci's home was quite an indulgence in the Italian culture, and sampling his garden was delightful as well. I tried his sweet peas and another type of pea that was bitter and tart. The tart bean is the one pictured and it was very large, and the inside almost felt like a soft blanket. We also sampled more of Menci's agricultural garden by eating a strawberry and the cherries provided as we were watching Gabriele's art demonstration. It was fascinating for me to compare Menci's Garden with my dad's garden at home. Menci had a larger variety of fruits and vegetables, but something I have noted throughout the trip so far is that I haven't seen any corn in gardens or our meals. Corn is a large major crop in Texas and at my house and it has surprised me that I have not seen it here. These differences in crops intrigued me, so I did some further research on the uses of crops. The crops of Italy (including rice, grapes, and olives) are focused around the Italian culture. This makes Italian crops unique to Italy and defines the rich culture itself. The Mediterranean climate also has the perfect conditions for these crops- while in Texas the climate is much different. The focus of a lot of crops in Texas - especially around Central Texas where I am from are utilized for livestock (such as horse feed). While a lot of the crops I have seen in Italy are more focused on human consumption and use. The set up of Gabriele's garden is similar to the set up of my home garden, however; I noticed Gabriele's Garden was more sporadic, and the focus was on the crop itself and protecting it than it's outer appearance (such as weeds, etc.) Overall, the visit to The Menci's Garden was an educational experience through learning about an agricultural garden and Horticulture in art.
Signing off!
Julia Schrank

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