Reflections from the Iris Respite House Healing Gardens August 2023

Apple trees are ominous. They’re not just for food. They bear the tempter’s power. Don’t hang out around them. If you do, eat at your own risk. Mythologically speaking, apples have earned the right to be feared. One bite and you lose your innocence. A gateway to darkness.

Nutritionally speaking, though, apples lose that power. Packed with 400 phytochemicals, 10% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C, high in water and fiber (making them both hydrating and filling), apples are the picture of health. There is data to support them lowering the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; aiding in weight loss; and promoting the growth of good gut bacteria. This is something you want to put in your body, daily! That said, Eve certainly wasn’t tempted by all of the phytonutrients God had been denying her. Instead, it was the knowledge of good and evil, the promise that “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5)

Ever struggle with temptation? A trip to the dark side? A decision you regret, one made out of blindness, pleasure-seeking, or, God forbid, ill will? Who hasn’t? So often, we think it’s a way out of misery, when in the end, it always ends up yielding more turbulence. The struggle is just as real as all those phytochemicals you find in every bite. Sometimes it’s anger, sometimes it’s pride, sometimes it’s just pure selfishness. No matter what the reason, falling to temptation has always taught me some higher lesson about how great the disparity actually is between God’s will and my own desires. His ways, I have learned, really are much, much higher than ours. The fallout, loss of wisdom, light, grace, and momentum from any temptation drives that home unforgettably.

Have you ever tried to find yourself? A journey rife with temptation and blind alleys. I used to get too angry, too often. Simmer and boil. However, thanks to a prayer life, and a benevolent and loving God, once I realized an infuriating situation was not just about me, that there were other minds, experiences, and souls involved, whom God also loved very much, I started to get over it more easily. When I’m tempted to get angry about something, it’s often because I’m not seeing the whole picture. And once I do, the fire quells a bit. This doesn’t mean I am without anger, not at all. It just means I can see a little more of reality than I could before. My eyes have been opened.

One of the lessons that the Hope Grows gardens have taught me about temptation is to feed myself. I have always been tempted to blow my body off until I can’t anymore, often prioritizing something else in lieu of stopping to eat so I can get more done. Or, eating something without any merit (unlike raw apples, of course) for pleasure or just to keep moving. During the growing season at Hope Grows, I’ll sometimes find myself with extra cucumbers, peppers, or tomatoes that need to be eaten. If I’m hungry enough, I’ll wash them and eat them on the spot.

I grew up in a city apartment, so aside from an occasional backyard tomato plant, I wasn’t picking fresh veggies. If you’ve never eaten something fresh off the vine, I urge you to volunteer at a local farm. I do believe if everyone had access to fresh picked fruits and vegetables, levels of illness would take a marked downturn. The amount of healing energy that one ingests with a freshly picked vegetable or fruit never fails to stop me in my tracks. It’s still vibrating with the sun’s love and the earth’s energy, leaving me all the more fortified and able to proceed in my work. The physiological return on the investment of time it takes to stop and feed myself, with fresh food, is far higher than not taking the time to eat. Once again, my eyes have been opened.

Growing apple trees requires patience. They take 4-8 years to produce their first fruits. But they are worth the wait. An apple tree in full bloom is one of spring’s most gorgeous sights, sweet smelling and a delight to the pollinators. In the years to come, I would actually love to see apple trees, maintained of course, have a greater presence in our urban landscapes. Not only for the pleasure of their beauty and yummy fruit, but simply to offer abundant natural reminders to seek God’s will in all matters and choose wisely.

Written by Jessica Giannotta, Hope Grows Horticulturist