Convert?

Unruly weed and veg patch
Unruly weed and veg patch

Just about everyone who knows me knows that I’m no vegetable gardener. I like to blame the woodchuck for my failure to grow Swiss chard, basil, lettuce, and cabbage but in truth, laziness is my excuse. Vegetables generally require more attention and input than I am inclined to give my garden. Since potted plants are the major exception to my laziness rule I have sometimes tried to grow tomatoes, basil, and lettuce in containers. Alas, despite regular watering, my attempts even at that have never resulted in a proud harvest.

This year I asked my cook and carpenter for a raised bed. I thought a dedicated space might help keep me focused. Can’t say it did. Borage and weeds overtook the basil and beets. I thought its height might thwart the woodchuck. Silly me. Chucks reach for what they want. The bok choi, Swiss chard, and cabbage disappeared the day they went in.

A plate of beautiful tomates
A plate of beautiful tomates

The only thing the raised bed has been great for (so far) was to grow the biggest, tastiest tomatoes I have ever harvested from my own patch. I can’t claim any of the credit. My mother-in-law, who always grows a beautiful and bountiful vegetable garden, gave me the starts. I planted them*, watered them once or twice and then laughed as the vines engulfed and capsized the puny cages I purchased to keep them upright. I never thought they’d bear fruit. When tomatoes started to form, I never thought they’d ripen.

They totally did and I happened to glance in their direction on exactly the right day. How happy am I?!

Pretty happy. But I’m not sure I’m a vegetable garden convert yet. Are you? What has been the best reward for your efforts this season?

*I filled the raised bed with my own (weedy) compost. That alone might earn me some of the credit for tomato vine fecundity.

The fruits of my labor…

thornless blackberry in the frontgarden border…never taste as good to me as the fruits of someone else’s labor. I think there’s something sort of perverse about that. I have dutifully eaten a couple of my own tomatoes in the last week but am much more excited about the tomatoes we chose from the growers’ market. I also have an abundant crop of blackberries in the frontyard garden but remember the wild ones we picked at the cemetery last year tasting sweeter. Perhaps in the case of the blackberries, the wild ones in a dry year really were sweeter than my cultivated thornless variety in a wet year but with the tomatoes I think it has something to do with respect and pride. I have very little of either when it comes to the edibles under my jurisdiction and I’m working on figuring out why.

Everyone on the planet it seems is taking great pride in knowing exactly where their food comes from and is growing their own. According to the experts, nothing tastes better than something you’ve grown yourself. I suspect one of my issues might be that I know for certain that all I did was plunk a little something in the ground and move onto the next thing. Even the vegetables we grow at work are more appealing than my own because I at least witness the effort and love that goes into maintaining those plants. And professional local growers’ vegetables seem somehow miraculous and perfect too. My own seem like afterthoughts, wannabes and lucky guesses at best.

Rosa mutabilisThe professionals have obviously taken some trouble with their tomatoes to grow them (particularly this year), harvest them and bring them to market. I don’t take any trouble at all. It takes me all of 20 seconds to walk out the door and pluck a ripe tom from my surviving plant. I respect the market growers’ efforts but have no reason whatsoever to respect mine. On the other hand I take tremendous and overblown pride in some of my ornamental plants. These roses that I rescued from the compost heap at work haven’t ceased to amaze me and just like my tomatoes, I didn’t do anything more than plant them either. Ironically some of the ornamental plants I’m proud of are, in fact, vegetables…

Last night we ate Z’s mother’s soaked tomato salad (fresh tomato(es) cut into rounds and laid in a single layer in a shallow dish and drizzled with with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped raw garlic, basil – fresh or dried, oregano and Adobo seasoning and allowed to steep for a bit) and I was halfway through loving it as usual when Z mentioned that the tomato was from our garden. He seemed to take some pride in that and ate his share with gusto. I always think that food tastes better when it’s prepared with thought, love and care – by someone else – and I enjoyed the salad because Z made it. But maybe that’s just it with growing food too. I’ve always been willing and able to create something to look at (hell, I even have a degree or two in that) and take great pride in my successful efforts in visual loveliness even if I’m the only one that ever sees it. But food for me was never Art – and never particularly tasty – unless someone else made it. hmmmmmm… Food for thought! With my very own delicious blackberries for dessert.

blackberry perfection

Are you proud of the food you’ve grown? Is it the very tastiest? Or, like me, would you rather just look at it?