I refuse to compare the bounty of my garden to others. I’ll still ache with envy when I see your willowy cosmos, softly nodding toward your perfectly painted picket fence. When I see your manicured lawn, competing for the highest marks in category “park-like setting,” I’ll think of the Bermuda grass clawing its way along my gravel driveway. However, I don’t begrudge you for the overflowing, almost impossible to carry baskets filled with garden vegetables and fruit — especially if you share.
My garden suits me just fine, small and manageable. The “raised bed,” is literally a black plastic truck bed liner filled with dirt and placed at a slight angle. My entire planting area is about the size of my queen-sized bed. The fact that I am able to grow a few zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, tomato and a harlequin bug-infested mass of kale is an astounding victory.
I say, bravo (and please share) to those who are harvesting so much produce they should open a food pantry.
Thank you Helen H. for flashing your bowl of tomatoes, piles and piles of tomatoes, amazingly red tomatoes, posted on social media weeks before my green tomatoes had even a blush of red. Your follow-up photos of bags and bags of tomato sauce in vacuum-sealed bags was also inspiring. I remember touring your garden years ago. I think you have garden superpowers. You are the Gal Gadot of gardening, and I refuse to feel badly that my first Celebrity tomatoes were harvested after the summer solstice.
Thank you Diane Clark, most esteemed of mentor teachers, for gleefully posting pictures of your “zucchini boats,” when your Z.O.U.S. (Zucchini of Unusual Size) required you to bake when we should all be in a pool sipping blended drinks.
My two yellow crookneck squash will never compare because I harvested them early when I just couldn’t wait. I accidentally harvested a Delicata squash before it was even ripe.
Nope. I won’t compare my little vegetable garden to others. My cucumbers still look like gherkins, but please don’t feel smug or sorry. When I finally post photos, I’ll expect your accolades.
Recently I was grateful to gather with a small group of women in Anina’s backyard. When I returned home that evening, I felt contentment, a feeling I embraced like a long-lost teddy bear. In isolation, I’ve tried to focus on the moments when I’m well and wonderful. Other moments, I’m feeling alone and confused about the unknowns. Feelings like these tend to accumulate like water-soaked bits of rice in the drain of a soon-to-be clogged kitchen sink. It’s a struggle to continue to pretend everything is normal when the world is no longer normal.
I needed to sit in the safety of a friend’s backyard, tip back in the lawn chair I always carry in the back of my car and be within proximity of warm and wonderful women. We literally went around the socially-distanced circle and shared one topic for which each of us struggles, followed by encouragement, non-judgmental advice and acknowledgment.
While I waited for my turn to be unburdened, I munched on an amazing salad.
I might not be able to grow amazing vegetables, but I certainly can eat them. The tomato was from my own garden.
Most mornings I suck on spinach and fruit popsicles. (Frozen spinach, misc. frozen fruit and a few tablespoons of protein shake to help with the blending. After pulsing on “smoothie setting in the blender, pour into plastic popsicle molds). Eating well means I can continue to say “yes, thank you” when my overburdened friends have extra produce.
LaDona’s peach tree was so heavy with fruit the limbs sagged. When I couldn’t eat fresh fruit fast enough, the fruit went into the freezer. My totally cool neighbor has an apricot tree. When I go to the farmers market, everything is so colorful I tend to buy too much, with the excess added to my future frozen smoothie stash.
This week I felt compelled to make pesto. I don’t particularly love pesto. However, I planted about 30 seeds of purple Thai basil seeds, and they all decided to grow. The plants are green, but the flowers are purple.
Pinching the flowers of leafy greens is important because otherwise the plant will go to seed and die. Usually I eat the flowers in the yard. The purple Thai basil flowers have a slight licorice flavor.
Pesto is usually made with garlic cloves, but I have garlic chives. These reseed easily, and clumps grow in the path of bark that is theoretically intended to keep out weeds.
I also did not have pine nuts, but Samantha grows walnuts and usually gifts me a bag in the fall, which I shove into the freezer. (Any nuts will work in pesto including almonds and pistachios).
With these three ingredients in the food processor, I added olive oil and presto — pesto. Most folks add Parmesan cheese to pesto, but by this time my pesto was so different, I didn’t miss the cheese, which would have required me to don a mask, change out of my pajamas and head to the store.
I’d love to hear other wacky, make-shift recipes people have created in isolation. Feel free to forward photos of your garden achievements as well. I won’t be jealous, because I have everything I need.