Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vegetables With Attitude

Angelo Pellegrini wrote of Italian immigrants in America, "the pleasure of eating what he raises is inseparably fused with the pleasure of raising what he eats." The Japanese did the same, and the Hmong and Vietnamese now have brought this closer-to-the-earth mentality to urban and suburban locales which until the recent economic tribulation shunned productive earth for inedible grass and "green meatball" shrubs.
We're familiar with the extensive, but temporary, gardening mania associated with the food shortages of the two world wars. It's said a million young people returned to the land in the '70s, and forgotten lore on homesteading and husbandry was republished for this considerable audience (the Nearings' books come to mind, of course, but my favorite is the now again rare The Five Acre Plan); without The Whole Earth Catalogue what would they have done? For suburban kids with no practical knowledge at all, and rural ones used to mechanized farming, that volume was invaluable, and introduced people to such a variety of obscure books and theories not ever found in school or library as well as gadgets not seen in the mass-market chain stores. Again, my favorite was the hand-operated "Amish" washing machine, which is still available. I ordered a big chrome hand-cranked grain mill which was immortalized in an article I wrote about it complete with gleaming photo; I got rid of all the grinding, cutting and canning stuff at one of our yard sales due to lack of a garage kitchen like my grandfather and grandmother had for performing such satisfying work. Again, suburbia just strangles the life out of things.
When we decamped for several weeks to California, the weather here changed from pleasant and rainy to hot and dry. The garden box in Zach's yard burnt up, but it was not doing that well since this year I just used up all the seeds we had, planting them directly and probably not at the exact right time. At home here, the plants in various pots were made of tougher stuff, and are to this day producing beyond all expectations. Two bean plants have been harvested four times; a grape tomato "volunteer" plant that grew from some stray seed in the compost is now huge and yields up a handful of perfect little tomatolets every few days. On the kitchen counter we have lined up a dozen perfect round fruits from the full-size "Early Girl" plant out back, and it currently has three more ready to pick. The lettuce out front bolted while we were away, but until then provided salads twice a day with those red rascals proudly nestled in the center of each one. I didn't anticipate much from these plants tucked into spots here and there, but they have been a delight. We missed a beat and didn't plant basil -- won't forget next year!
They say men plan and the gods just laugh; Nature is amused by our efforts too, but she takes a little pity on us and provides some sweet surprises.

1 comment:

  1. You need to get a plot of land (if "they" won't let you do it in your own back yard) and let nature take a hold. Hands in the dirt humbles the soul but the rewards are outstanding.
    "They" will probably cut down Puppywoods when I'm gone, but I have it for a while.