My grandpa on my mom's side grew up on a farm about an hour south of Salt Lake City. Consequently, he and my gramma always had a garden in their backyard. Nothing fancy, just your garden variety...garden. Although, now that I think of it, a large, glass greenhouse took up residence in their backyard for most of my formative years and folks investing in greenhouses generally aren't messing around...
What I remember most about their garden, though, are the strawberries. Rows and rows of bright, red strawberries. Sometimes, when we'd sleep over at gramma's house she'd serve up a bowl of those bad boys for breakfast. Strawberries, a splash of milk and a sprinkle of sugar. But most of the time I'd park my bony 8-year-old ass on the lawn next to a row of the berries and just go to town. Heaven.
The strawberry flavor has been whored out to everything from licorice to Pop Tarts and shampoo and, as a result, has been so bastardized that I'm willing to bet a good 80% of folks don't even remember the real flavor of a strawberry. In fact, most of the strawberry items you purchase don't even contain real strawberry, just a creepy concoction of vowel-less ingredients (read: chemicals) you can't pronounce.
When's the last time you bit into a garden strawberry? Not one of those mutated, fist-sized jobs shilled at grocery stores. That deformity of nature is an overly sweet, watery, pale imitation of the tangy berries that pushed their way up through the earth in Gramma's backyard. What I mean is, when's the last time you tasted a berry fresh off someone's vine? A petite, flavor-packed, zingy home-grown number?
And so it is with most fruits and vegetables these days. They're bloated, watery versions of their former selves. Kind of like Elvis at the end. Who would you rather see in concert? Bloated, sweaty Elvis or the young, gorgeous badass whose slight tweak of the knee heralded a goddamn tsunami of worldwide adoration? I'm going with young Elvis and Gramma's strawberries every fucking time.
I guess memories of Gramma's garden are what inspired dreams about planting my own garden. There's just something so fabulously primitive about stepping out your backdoor, plucking an onion from your earth along with a jalapeno and a red pepper and whipping up an omelet generously sprinkled with your own cilantro. Now I just need some chickens...
This red onion is on the small side because SOMEONE got a little too excited and pulled him out of the ground early. Someone may or may not have incriminating dirt on their face and hands. I can't blame her, though. We planted these bulbs together back in April and she's been excitedly waiting to see what happens ever since.
Everything just tastes superior, the way it was meant to taste. Eating food you grow yourself is powerful, but, truly, the most mind-blowing aspect of gardening, at least for me, is to plant a seed or bulb in the ground and watch it grow. This tiny seed turned into this? It's magic.
Seeing these tomatoes and peppers popping into existence seemingly overnight makes me feel like Tom Hanks in that scene from Castaway when he finally gets a fire going. Except instead of fire, I created food.
LOOK WHAT I HAVE CREATED! I HAVE MADE FOOD. I. HAVE. MADE. FOOD.
Although we've grown some tomatoes, peppers and a few herbs in little plots of dirt in the various homes we've rented, we have never full-on squared off and tilled up a good bit of earth for a garden. So this is my first, real garden. Henry's too.
I must admit, it's a steep learning curve. I didn't realize how big zucchini bushes get so they're totally creeping on the eggplant I planted too close like horny fraternity boys circling the hottest chicks at the party, but, like most chicks who know they're hot, the eggplants are fending off the zucchini nicely. I planted too many onions, but I can always share the bounty with neighbors. But all this fine-tuning after each year's harvest is part of the fun. Next year: more broccoli, less onions. And fruit. Blueberries, raspberries and, of course, strawberries.
The most important part? We're having fun. Violet and Henry helped plant everything, they're with me when I weed and water each day and now they're seeing how it all works as we welcome each new vegetable into the garden. "Mom! Lookit the baby zucchinis! So cute! Mama! I found another tomato! When will they turn red? Can we eat them yet?"
Henry helps tie up a tomato plant as Max looks on:
Are you into gardening? What's your favorite thing to grow? What can you never get to grow?