Shortly after I turned 20, my family moved from central Illinois to Southern California, swapping snow boots for sandals; we also traded in two apple trees for a grove of lemons, avocados, pomegranates, figs, and jujubes. A few years ago, I started my quest to grow heirloom vegetables, which frustrated and rewarded me in seemingly equal quantities—only a few hinona kabu turnips came up the first year, but the dan hobak (known as kabocha to most folks) immediately blanketed the backyard, flowering with dozens of sweet squashes-to-be.
My mother, who grew up on a farm in South Korea, was overjoyed that she could be outside all year round —even after she fell from the top of her fig tree and broke her little toe. “Look at all these figs I picked!” she exclaimed, sitting on the ground with her toe swelling up. “Make sure you take all the figs inside and wash them right away, or their juice will attract bugs,” she instructed my father when he deposited her on her bed, shaking his head and going to call the doctor.