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P-Patch Site Coordinator Milton Tam discusses his eclectic taste and love of heirloom tomatoes

What is your ethnicity and generation in the United States?

“I am third-generation Chinese American. My family is from Southern China so they speak Cantonese. Actually, my grandmother was born in Hawaii, which at the time was a territory considered part of the United States, so my family has been in the U.S. for over 100 years actually. We’ve been around here for a long time. I was in Seattle for graduate school; I really liked it, and always wanted to come back. After a few jobs here there and overseas I came back to Seattle. So, [my family] has actually been in Seattle for over 40 years and in this neighborhood all that time.”

How long have you/your family been gardening at your P-Patch?

I’ve been gardening at Picardo for 16 years. I got a plot here after about a year of waiting, at that time you could have really big plots. There was one gardener here who had a plot that was 1600 square feet – bigger than a lot of people’s houses! I started off with 400 square feet then expanded to 800 square feet, but decided to cut back a few years ago. It was too much. My daughter gardens with me and helps out which is nice.

Is there a vegetable/plant you like to grow that connects you to your family heritage?

“I like to put in a lot of heirloom tomato plants every year, not quite ethnic but I think they eat tomatoes in China. That is what I like to grow most. From August to October, we just gorge on tomatoes. We stop eating tomatoes until about March or April when we can’t resist anymore and get them at the store, but they aren’t the same. Tomatoes are my favorite to grow. The Asian vegetable that I’ve liked to grow in the past is Chinese broccoli, gai lan, but have had trouble with club root. After that I tried other things like napa cabbage, winter squash-kabocha style squash is very good. I always plant quite a few green onions, cilantro, Chinese parsley. My taste is very eclectic, and I like to plant a little of everything!”