We have long kept a small backyard garden to teach our children, and now our grandchildren, a few basics about gardening.
The biggest lesson they have learned is this: If we had to live on the food we grow, we would all be very thin and very hungry.
Unless, of course, you could be well fed on cherry tomatoes. We do well with cherry tomatoes and any other plant that thrives on neglect.
We are currently yielding 11 bright red cherry tomatoes for every one minuscule raspberry.
We like the itty-bitty tomatoes and are grateful for them, but man does not live on itty bitty tomatoes alone. Man also needs olive oil, mozzarella and pasta to accompany tomatoes, all of which we have had no success growing.
Tomatoes are like cucumbers and zucchini—plants that start out as unassuming frail seedlings, emerging a leaf or two here and there. They keep you guessing whether they will endure the dip in night temperatures, the torrents of rain or the scorch of the sun. You check on them every day. Then one day, in a matter of seconds, they are mature and fully grown, virtually exploding, intent on taking over the entire garden. They become, shall we say, overbearing? They multiply like crazy.
Last week I dropped off a friend at her home after having lunch. Her husband ran out of the house when he saw the car pull into the driveway and said he wouldn’t take his wife back until I agreed to take some cucumbers home with me.
She is a good friend, and because our cucumbers had not yet started exploding, I agreed to take a few.
He reappeared on a dead run, cradling a basket with 16 cucumbers.
By the time I got home (90 seconds later), our cucumbers were also exploding. I’ve made cucumber soup, tossed cucumbers in salads, on sandwiches, in vinegar and sour cream, and even tried wearing slices of them under my eyes to reduce puffiness.
Every backyard gardener is giving cucumbers and tomatoes to neighbors who already have more than enough, so they give them to other friends and neighbors who give them to other friends and neighbors. Some tomatoes and cucumbers have been known to travel three time zones in a single day.
We also do well growing herbs that thrive on neglect thereby complementing the produce we grow that thrives on neglect. There’s a pattern here, isn’t there?
Last week I tucked a bag filled with rosemary in my purse for a friend and forgot to give it to her, or force it on her, whichever you like.
My purse is now permanently fragranced like rosemary. On the upside, every time I open my purse, my sinuses clear.
We have foisted all the cherry tomatoes and cucumbers we can on friends and neighbors. The time has come for us to draw the curtains and bolt the doors in case they have plans to reciprocate. We’re taking no chances. Zucchini season is coming.