From the street, this house on Cambreleng Avenue seems to be an ordinary house.
But tucked behind the small single family home in Belmont sits a Garden of Eden in the heart of the concrete jungle.
Surrounded by fig, apricot and hazelnut trees, Teresa Tarantino’s garden sits on a 50-by-100 foot lot attached to her property.
Reminiscent of time spent in the “old country,” it is here in her garden, she said, where she feels most at home.
Tarantino grew up in a garden, in Calabria Italy where her parents owned a farm.
“It was all we did,” she said. “It was my job.”
Tarantino said she left Italy to come to America when she was 36, to be with her husband Mario, who had come five years earlier.
“Times were bad, and everyone was coming here because there was work here,” she said.
The couple settled down on Arthur Avenue, where she spent 23 years as a super of various local buildings while her husband worked in landscaping.
After raising three kids and watching five grandchildren grow up, the 81-year-old now spends morning to evening tending to her garden, a task she handles on her own.
The garden is harvested from May through October, and produces about 20 different kinds of fruits and vegetables.
“I grow figs, peaches, apricots, tomatoes, beans, zucchini, grapes, peppers, eggplants, celery and a bunch of herbs,” she said.
Tarantino’s granddaughter Nina Rubino said before her grandfather passed away, her grandparents used to make wine with the grapes from the garden.
“Years ago, she also used to sell figs, tomatoes and zucchini flowers to the local market around here,” she said. “But then she stopped. She told me she got too old. Now she just gives them away. Neighbors and friends know when they come over to bring their baskets.”
Most of the meals Tarantino makes come from her garden.
“I don’t have a favorite thing I grow,” she said. “I like it all.”
Rubino said one of her grandmother’s traditions is making and jarring tomato sauce from tomatoes grown in the garden.
“When the tomatoes are ready the whole family comes over and we help to make the sauce,” Rubino said. “Everything we do has to be exactly right, and she watches us to make sure it is.”
Rubino said she admires her grandmother’s hard work and dedication to the garden.
“I love it,” Rubino said. “I wish I could learn everything she does. I have learned something over the years, but it’s a lot of work. I don’t have the strength that she does.”
Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3394