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When Vegetables Were Rationed

Debbie Roland, Master Gardener

Rationing of three hundred items began March 1, 1943. Included in that number were canned vegetables, fruits, juices and soups. Fewer canned items meant less strain on the rail and road infrastructure and more available tin for the war movement. Tin for civilian purposes was rationed. The Department of Agriculture produced guides for gardeners, as did magazines and newspapers, and this provided a way for everyone to contribute to the war effort.

Each person was allowed 33 pounds of canned goods per year which were purchased with stamps from ration books. Citizens were urged to plant and eat their own fruits and vegetables.

Thus began the Victory Garden. Community gardens formed with knowledgeable gardeners guiding beginners. Farmers were urged to plant their cash crops as well as provide for family and friends. Gardens were planted in parks, vacant lots, rooftops and baseball fields. The Victory Garden at Fenway is still an active garden today.

Like today, instructions were given about site selection, soil preparation, planting, weeding and harvest. The goal was to produce enough for the summer and to preserve enough for the winter until next year’s garden was again in production. Everyone was urged to share with their neighbors. Not only did it increase morale but civilians ate healthier food which also allowed crops produced by U.S. farmers to be used for the military and our Allies.

In a 1944 poll it was found that 75 percent of women were canning an average of 165 jars per year. Anything not used was donated to the needy.

Just like in years past, it is a good idea to know how to plan and plant a garden, harvest and preserve food. Bell peppers, lettuce, squash and tomatoes are an example of crops that will save you money. Others that only produce one time (i.e. onions and carrots) will provide fresh vegetables but might be cheaper to purchase at the store. However, if it comes from your garden, you will know what you and your family are eating and you won’t have to worry about your backyard garden being subject to a recall. You can control what (if any) fertilizers and pesticides are in your food. And if none of that is important to you, maybe the fact that homegrown vegetables just taste better will sway you.

Happy Gardening and Happy 4th of July.

If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.


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