Sunday, July 11, 2010

A True Garden (or Jungle!) Has Emerged!

What began as our first attempt at a garden is working! And, oh, we have had successes: each day the boys rise to grab a cucumber off the vines. The 4 year old insists they feel like cacti (these small seedless kinds do have little bumps). And then they nibble them up for pre-breakfast treats.
They have also grown adept at searching out our few green beans, picking mommy's "spicy" radishes, and even watering the whole thing. I ate my first Japanese eggplant, sauteed and thrown into a shrimp dish. That same night, a kind neighbor pointed out that if I didn't pick our broccoli it would be come flowers. So, I sauteed that up, as well, with a soy marinade. And, yes, our first incredibly sweet sungold tomato ripened enough to be popped like candy.
Our brussel sprouts continue to look like monstrous cabbage leaves...sans cabbage. Not a sprout in sight. I keep thinking I should pull them from the garden to save space for our burgeoning tomato crop.
Now those tomatoes: they are out of CONTROL, as my ebullient 4 year old says. It is a bit of a jungle since I clearly failed to space them out. We have tons upon tons of lovely green cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100s and some other kind. Ooops. Forgot to note which Russell's variety we chose!) We also have many "egg" tomatoes and others that my son insists look like pumpkins. I am a bit perplexed as to why so many stay so green for so long. I am not sure if it is a lack of sun or a lack of patience on my part. (Probably both). That same neighbor tried to teach me how to identify the extra shoots so I could pull them. I am sure there is a great essay to be written (or has been) about the lessons to be learned by pulling off some tomato flowers or shoots, so that there is more energy to grow the other tomatoes.
The eggplant is finally coming in. First, to my amazement, growing out of tiny purple flowers. I am always astounded by how they grow overnight. At dusk they are egg-sized, but by dawn, like little fingers. Scary little bugs live on them, but a kind organic farmer pointed out that these same beetles may actually be eating other bugs, saving our produce!
The radishes are picked out, but our tiny peppers have appeared. My jalapenos are far slower, easing their way into the world.
Our green beans, and actually our beans, too, are also puzzling us. Each day the kids find a few stragglers in the mess of vines. But my shell beans and the beans I hoped to dry stay close to the ground. And the kids never find more than 2 or 3 a day. Again, I think I planted them too close to the shade of the fabulous cucumbers. I did though just discover our first Vermont cranberry bean! (Hopefully my first attempt at preserving summer produce for the fall will be to dry the beans!)
Oh, those cucumbers are our summer prize. We love watching them peer out from under their yellow flowers (which I almost picked, ignorant of how cucumbers grow). The kids check each day until they are just big enough, and twist them off the vine. They are more sweet and crisp than any I have ever had before.
I have a variety of greens. I actually have no idea what. I know one is lacinto kale that is clearly adored by some bug who nibbles out holes. That same organic farmer suggested I add more fertilizer to my garden. He promised that as the fertilizer feeds the kale and they grow stronger, the bugs might simply disappear. I think I have spinach and rainbow chard, but the rest is mysterious. I believe I planted beets as well, but nothing is growing under the ruby leaves. That might come with patience, again.
Our carrot tops are growing steadily, but we suspect a bunny will eat them as fast as said animal ate our few strawberries. (He or she couldn't even leave just one for the toddlers. Silly rabbit.) I don't know how to know when to pick them. But part of the total pleasure of this garden has been that IT.DOESN'T. MATTER.

Because here is the truth. I am a total perfectionist. Blessing and curse. And I am as analytical as they come. And here is a glorious project, that can't really fail. And there is no right. And one carrot picked too early is just a moment to talk about with the kids. We can always get some in a few weeks. Or at a farmer's market. But look: just together I realized our broccoli is (gasp), growing back!
It brings me peace each day as I lean over to prune here or there. To stand in the sun and water without an I-Phone or computer by my side. And it brings my children complete and utter joy to discover food and ask questions and to watch their treasure grow.

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