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Memorial Day and Victory Gardens

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This Monday is Memorial Day! In honor of the holiday, learn more about a part of the US's military history and get ideas for what to grow in your Victory Garden.

Military history for Memorial Day

Some people think of Memorial Day only as a fun time to kick-off summer with parties and festive long-weekend breaks from school. Actually, each May, Memorial Day honors American soldiers who died while serving in the military. To memorialize means to remember in a lasting way. One way that we can memorialize soldiers who served America is by learning about America’s military history.

One particularly interesting period in history is World War II, a war in which America and its allies battled the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. The war had many complex causes, and since it was fought in many places all around the world, it required lots of soldiers and resources. The demand was so great that it disrupted Americans’ access to food, which became more scarce. The effects of war could be seen in the grocery store and felt at the dinner table. During times of war, soldiers risk their lives to complete their military missions. They are trained to do tasks like drive tanks or fly airplanes or navigate distances, usually very far from home. How is it possible for ordinary people to help the military win a war in far away places? Actually, during World War II, American citizens accomplished a huge feat that helped soldiers succeed: Americans planted 20 million gardens to grow fruit and vegetables.

During World War II, resources were needed for the war effort. One example is the resource of labor, or the ability to do work. Thousands of young men joined the military and were sent to fight in places like France, Russia and Japan. Their jobs at home—like working in factories or on farms—now had no one to do them. 

And while many women did these jobs, the labor shortage caused other shortages, including food. The government knew that food shortages would occur and rationed food and asked Americans to plant gardens and grow their own food. T he gardens were called War Gardens and Victory Gardens, and many people who never grew food before learned how to from the government. Patches of grass in backyards, apartment building roofs, parks and public land were all places where people grew food. Victory Gardens popped up in cities and suburbs, and people on farms planted more types of fruit and vegetables, too. Neighborhoods organized and assigned certain fruits or vegetables to families to grow, and then all the neighbors shared their harvests. Much of the hard work done in Victory Gardens was done by children, who contributed to the war effort by weeding and watering plants. Americans grew an incredible amount of food, allowing factories to concentrate on making equipment and food needed by the soldiers.

A recipe for your Victory Garden produce

Plant your own Victory Garden and harvest vegetables all season long. Enjoy your fresh produce with tender pasta and melty cheese.

Tortellini primavera

Serves 6.

Ingredients

•1 tablespoon olive oil
•2 tablespoons garlic, minced
•½ cup onion, diced
•1 cup broccoli florets
•1 cup yellow squash, sliced
•1 cup zucchini, sliced
•1 cup tomatoes, diced
•½ cup red bell pepper, diced
•½ cup green bell pepper, diced
•½ cup snow peas
•¼ teaspoon salt
•¼ teaspoon pepper
•1 (8 ounce) package of cheese tortellini
•¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
•¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped

Instructions

Prepare tortellini according to package directions. Have an adult place a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic and onion, and sauté until onions are soft. Add broccoli, yellow squash and zucchini and cook until vegetables begin to soften. Add the rest of the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and cook until all vegetables are tender. Add tortellini and cheese and toss with vegetables so cheese melts. Top with basil and serve.

For a saucier dish, add a ¼ cup of the water you cooked your pasta in when you add the tortellini and cheese.

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