Wake up and smell the Strawberry Flag
What’s that smell coming from the Veterans Affairs hospital in west Los Angeles? Strawberries?
Yes, that’s right—strawberries. Artists and veterans there are hard at work creating a garden on the hospital campus’ quadrangle that will look like a red-white-and-blue American flag as big as a football field, composed of strawberries that will be harvested to make jam.
The “deliciously therapeutic” project, titled Strawberry Flag, is described thusly in a news release from the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System: “Like a traditional American flag, this flag has 13 stripes made of reclaimed strawberries with friendly and inviting walking paths and on the top corner, a blue field (shaded by existing trees) made of an edible herb called borage and white starshaped flowers.”
The seven red stripes of a traditional American flag were so hued to symbolize the hardiness and valor that the early colonies needed in their struggle against British rule.
In west Los Angeles, the red in the Strawberry Flag is fed with water from the nearby Los Angeles River, which is tapped using a pumping system driven by stationary bicycles pedaled by veterans.
Wondering about the clinical connection to the hospital? The VA, along with its partner in the project, the Metabolic Studio in Los Angeles, says the physical therapy of riding the bicycles is only one key aspect. Veterans are also doing construction and maintenance projects related to the project, and will be nurturing the plants and making them into jams, along with related printmaking projects.
The jam can be bought online at veteranspreserves.org, and the proceeds go to pay the veterans working on the project. And who knows—maybe some future John Lennon will live nearby, and spend bucolic mornings playing among the fruit with his friends, and draw artistic inspiration from the project someday when he’s looking for a nostalgic symbol of purity, simplicity and beauty. “Strawberries are rather fragile fruit; however this flag will remain strong in the years to come,” the VA news release says. “Let’s not forget what the Beatles once sang … “Strawberry fields forever. Strawberry fields forever. Strawberry fields forever.”