W.While many are familiar with the Underground Railroad, the Frick Environmental Center at From Slavery to Freedom Garden is exploring an often overlooked, essential piece of history.
The teaching garden, a collaboration between Frick Park and the Senator John Heinz History Center, shows plants that are used by freedom-seeking slaves for food and healing purposes – some in forests and fields on their travels, others in home gardens of free colored people, accordingly pittsburghparks.org.
“There’s a whole different story of the transition from slavery to freedom that isn’t much talked about,” says Amber Stacey, naturalist with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “The environment was a big challenge while running, [from] Weather, accommodation, food, and what to do if they get sick. This side of the story should be told. “
Every plant in the garden has historically been considered to be used by slaves to survive. The garden has wooden beds with plants that can be grown in a home garden, such as carrots, beets, ball beets, coriander, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant and a mixture of peppers.
Once the fruits and vegetables are harvested, Frick Park invites guests to pick the ripe edibles, take them home and enjoy. Produce is also donated to nonprofits such as 412 Food Rescue.
On the edge of the garden, wild plants represent what slaves survived while fleeing on the subway. These plants include black snake root, hellebore, okra, asparagus, apple trees, May apples, parsley, Adam’s needle, and dandelion. Many of the plants were used for medicinal purposes and sometimes as food.
“I want people to know this isn’t just a garden,” says Stacey. “There’s a whole story behind it and how people had to use the land and had a very close relationship with it.”
The From Slavery to Freedom garden, created in 2016, was developed in collaboration with the Heinz History Center as part of a larger exhibition. The project required a living garden component, and the Umweltzentrum Frick was a natural partner, since as a living building it must have an organic garden on site.
The garden, which is open for guided tours, is open all year round. The children’s campers from Frick Park also get to know the garden all summer long by finding out about “wild foods”.
The Environmental Center Frick is also planning to integrate more tours and increase the learning opportunities for visitors. Guided tours and class visits can be planned here.
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