The tomatoes have already started to redden, something that hasn't happened by late-July in the whole history of my pretending to garden. I'd like to think it's the beginning of a trend. But I know it's just an anomaly. These tomatoes are just alive enough to be embarrassed they are among the other so-called “plants” in the raised beds that border our house.
When I cupped my hand around the firm fruit and extracted it from the tangle of ugly leaves, I squinted, still holding it at arm's length, expecting the tomato to explode.
I'm not what one would call a green thumb. Not that it stops me from trying.
After all, last year we did manage to wrestle four pears and six strawberries away from the squirrels.
I've just accepted the fact that I grow food for the blight … and for the critters who visit late at night, vexing the dog. The perennial flowers that appear haphazardly among the berries and the lettuces, grace us with their presence for a few seasons before they disappear.
Their bulbs carried off by squirrels or killed in winter by my forgetfulness.
I didn't really expect anything glorious this year, though I fertilized the soil once and weeded a few times.
I tried to contain my delight at the little nub of green pepper that grew after the delicate blossom faded. I cultivated the same poker face when a curling tendril of cucumber reached its way up the trellis.
I knew what was coming.
Yellow leaves. Black dots. Munched leaves.
I frowned but wasn't surprised a little while later, when I noticed the tiny pickling cucumbers attached to the now dry and lifeless vines were petrified … in the rock-hard sense. The leaves had all withered and were crumbling when touched.
Broccoli-colored worms had feasted on the broccoli plants. Again, not a huge surprise. Last year's attempt had cultivated only a single, four-inch floret. Not exactly enough to count as a single serving.
The tomato vines, gangly and overgrown, turned spotted and dry in places but still produced healthy fruit. Last year, the vaguely green orbs, attached to healthy-looking plants, split or turned black before they ripened. Hundreds of the cherry-variety rotted on the ground.
A hundred times I've asked myself why I try to grow food.
I don't know what the true answer is …
Maybe it's because I fear a post-apocalyptic world, where our only source of food will be a dog … or the neighbors … if I can't manage to squeeze a squash from my garden.
Maybe it's just because I can't seem to do it.
Instead of giving up, I just try new things.
I pick plants I think are pretty.
Artichokes … Beans … Broccoli … Peppers ... Zucchini …
I also see it as a bit of a dare. The unwanted are the only specimens that have a chance to flourish in my garden.
Will anyone in this house eat an artichoke? Of course not. So, I'll probably get a bushel of them.
How many zucchini do you think we'll have to put on neighbors' front porches come late-August?
Let's watch those suckers grow.