Sunday, August 24, 2008
A few months ago, at the beginning of summer, I moved into a new house, and with the help of my wonderful roommates, we made a vegetable garden. This little plot of land, separated from the lawn by a frame of free wood from our landlords' scrap pile, was responsible for many a quixotic thought of the supposed summer bounty. I had imagined baskets overflowing with squash and more tomatoes than I would know what to do with. I wanted to be forced to finally tackle preserving. We had thought, at the very least, we would not have to shop at the store as much, that we could rely on the Oregon land to fill our bellies as well as our souls.
While this might still be the case in the future, as the tomato plants are heavy with green specimens and the squash is still covered in blossoms, here it is - late August - and we've had a rather meager harvest. Two or three perfect little red tomatoes, a rather ugly but delicious cucumber, a skosh of broccoli, one yellow squash, and a Japanese eggplant. While the precious few fruits of our labor have been met with a good deal of celebration, I'm not sure what to expect from my gorgeous plants. I'm not really complaining, or giving up on the garden by any means, but it makes me wonder about a few things. The Pacific Northwest had such a late winter, and through my work I know that farmers throughout Washington and Oregon have had disappointingly low yields. Is this an anomaly? I hope so - because I know so many farmers who could not survive another year like this, and I plan on farming in the area in the future - but part of me wonders if this is a glimpse of a scary future. Perhaps global climate change has altered my regional agricultural utopia, and my garden is just a small sign of a changing world.
Or maybe I'm just not a great gardener. Either way, I've had to take solace in the bounty of others - the Farmers' Market was as wonderful as ever yesterday - and in the other pleasures I get from the 5 by 7 rectangle of soil and roots. Watering the garden after just waking up in the morning, with the early sun casting full rainbows through the spray, has been a wonderful part of my summer. And as one of my closest friends Terra famously exclaims, the garden shows us that we live on the earth. An earth that is capable of providing us food. To eat. Perhaps I will just have to learn more, experiment more, and feel a lesser harvest in order to reap greater ones in the future. Regardless, my garden has played a large part in my SOLE Food Summer, spiritually, if not astoundingly culinary.
Given the lackluster bounty of this year's garden, I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that the first tomato was met with a celebration. Upon appraising the red beauty's state of ripeness and declaring that it was ready to be picked, I called Terra and asked if she'd come over after work and give thanks to the garden. Later that day, we sat on the patio with a plate of our sliced tomato, the first cucumbers (one from mine and one from Terra's garden), and some local corn, with a touch of fleur de sel. As the sun set, we shared our days and our plans for the rest of summer, savoring every bite. I can only hope our evening together will be repeated in the weeks to come, that both the garden and I will be able to soak up the last weeks of summer, and that the rest of the green tomatoes find their blush.