The garden showed off to me today with some beautiful sunflowers. I may be hooked on growing plants, and these in particular, from seed. It’s a small marvel to watch them go from green bud hugging the earth, to delicate stem, to strong, leafy stalks with little suns at their center.
We’ve had a few work days since the last blog post, including our first ever Sunday work day. Grace and I decided to move our Friday 11am to 1pm workdays to Sunday afternoons 3-5pm to try and capture the 9-5 weekday workers that haven’t had a chance to get their hands in the dirt. Our first weekend work day went smashingly, with a surprisingly all male volunteer turnout (our volunteer demographic has skewed female this summer, so I feel safe saying boy power!! on this one). Robert even brought some juicy watermelon to enjoy, which was perfect on a hot day with the weeds staring us down.
This is a time of year in the garden where everything seems to be spilling over the edges of their beds, especially the squash and cucumber plants. I like to reflect on how exotic so many vegetable plants would seem to us if they weren’t run-of-the-mill plant varieties the average joe is familiar with (although I should be careful what I say, Barbara Kingsolver mentions in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that her friend was surprised to hear potatoes had a “plant part.”) I imagine tourists snapping pictures of Venus fly traps and redwoods, and it doesn’t seem so far off from drooling over massive winter squash leaves, cabbages nestled in their leaf nests, and asparagus with their delicate tinsel and green balls. And to see fruit developing from these flowers! It seems like a miracle.
I’ve always thought that the main disconnection in our eating culture is between us, people, and the things we put in our mouths, food. However, there exists a disconnect between farming land and the actual plant varieties that draw life from it’s soil nutrients. I’d heard of “heirloom vegetables” before, but never knew what that meant. Heirloom veggies are the fruit of seeds that have been saved for many generations, passed from one gardener to another. They are open-pollinated, as opposed to hybrids, which are the one-time product of a forced cross-pollination between dissimilar plant varieties. Often heirloom varieties are adapted to their local climates and are bred for sweetness, tanginess, fragrance–that is, taste. In contrast, our grocery store fruits’ selected traits are for uniform appearance, mechanized harvest, and efficient packaging. Just the names of heirlooms make your mouth water. Kingsolver mentions Bronze Arrowhead lettuces, Speckled Trout romaine, Cajun Jewel Okra, Sweet Chocolate Pepper, and more.
Eating from a garden isn’t just better for the environment–no fuel footprint from transport when the garden is local, no chemical pesticides and fertilizers,etc– but it tastes better too!
Doesn’t it look inviting? Join us next week.