The Garden of Eden is gone, but home gardeners can grow many of the plants, trees and herbs described in the Bible.
In a new book, “Plants of the Bible and How to Grow Them” (Birch Lane Press), gardening expert Allan A. Swenson tells how to grow, or provide close substitutes for, the vegetation described in the Bible, from the cedars of Lebanon to the refreshing cucumbers and melons remembered fondly during Israel’s time in the wilderness after the escape from slavery in Egypt.
Once they get started, Swenson says, gardeners may find that tilling the earth with these plants can be a spiritual as well as physical exercise.
Swenson, author of some 30 books on gardening, said that as he did his research for the book, he was surprised by how much wisdom the Bible contained about caring for the land.
For example, he said that the biblical command in Exodus to let the land rest and lie fallow every seventh year displays an often-ignored understanding of the need to let the land rest at various intervals.
Among the discoveries he unearths in his book is the knowledge that the apple may have gotten a bad biblical rap over the years.
Generations of popular portrayals aside, it is more likely that an apricot was the fruit of the tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat, according to Swenson. There are no common apple trees native to Israel, while apricot trees are found abundantly in the Holy Land, Swenson says.
In his book, Swenson tells home gardeners how they can grow not only apples and apricots, but also figs and grapes, lilies and tulips, cedar and pine trees, and many other plants mentioned in the Bible.
Some famous plants, such as the trees that produce frankincense and myrrh, two of the famous gifts brought by the Wise Men to the infant Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew, are not generally available in the United States.
Swenson said he is hopeful that biblical gardeners will not only look up the references to their plants in the Bible, but also be turned on to regularly reading the book.
“Maybe we can get this world growing better together,” Swenson said.
Here are some biblical gardens in the United States recommended by Swenson in his book on the subject:
* St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church Bible Garden, Long Beach.
* The Biblical Garden of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York.
* The Garden of Our Lord at St. James Lutheran Church in Coral Gables, Fla.
* Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden at Rodef Shalom Temple in Pittsburgh.
Other biblical gardens cited in the book include those at the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Camarillo; Church of the Wayfarer and Church of the Holy Spirit in Carmel, and Beth El Bible Gardens in Providence, R.I.