Victory gardens (also known as war gardens) were small-plot edible gardens planted in back yards, on rooftops, in public spaces and other designated areas during World War I and II in an attempt to supplement the food supply and aid in the war effort. Beyond a source of good, healthy, local food for residents of the US, UK, Canada and Germany, they were believed to be morale boosters, empowering citizens by allowing them to do what they could to chip in from the home front. The government encouraged everyone to join the effort – one American poster’s slogan read: “Our food is fighting”; in the UK, it was “Dig for Victory”. Today, planting a garden in available spaces is an equally rewarding effort; for our own well being, a strengthened community, and the long-term health of our kids, who are able to learn from gardening how food grows, where it comes from, and what real food tastes like.
Growing up, one of the most well-used cookbooks on my mom’s shelf was the Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash. We’d often make enormous pots of soup; a great meal to make no matter what you have growing in your backyard, or what’s in season at the supermarket.
Victory Garden Chicken & Vegetable Soup
adapted from hte Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 L water
1 tsp. salt
canola or olive oil, for cooking with
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb. thin-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 19 oz (549 mL) can whole or diced tomatoes, undrained
3 carrots, chopped
2 cups green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 zucchini, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 large bunch of spinach, torn (discard stems)
a handful of fresh basil, torn (optional)
Bring chicken, water, and salt to a boil in large pot. Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken breast and thigh pieces to platter (leave remaining chicken and stock in pot) and remove the meat from the bones; chop or shred and set aside. Return scraps and bones to pot.
Simmer the stock for an hour, then strain it. If you like, chill overnight so that you’re able to spoon the solidified fat off the top and discard.
To make the soup, heat a drizzle of oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Sauté the onion until golden, then add the stock, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, green beans and bring to a boil; simmer 10-15 minutes. Add zucchini, corn and peas; simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in spinach and chicken meat. Simmer until heated through, stir in basil, season with salt and pepper and serve hot. Makes lots.
Photo: Victory garden poster, World War II
Publication: [Washington, D.C.] Agriculture Department. War Food Administration.
Printer: U.S. Government Printing Office