Veggies ‘picked’ at market just as good

Published 1:47 am Saturday, July 9, 2016

This morning I stopped by my favorite produce market to look over what delights it had to offer. I first approached the shelf loaded with beautiful tomatoes and selected some just perfect to slice for bacon and tomato sandwiches. Next, I picked out small, tender crook-neck squash that I prefer to cook with slices of sautéed onion or use in a squash casserole. By the time I was ready to check out, I had added a bag of fresh shelled butter beans and a large russet potato.

As I drove home with my goodies on the seat beside me, I thought about what a delight it was when the vegetables my husband planted in our small back yard began to ripen. In early mornings and late afternoons, we visited his small garden plot to check on the progress of his plants. He was so thrilled when the first tiny tomato appeared or he found a small maturing squash hidden among the vines. He once brought in an eggplant about half the size of my head. It was concealed in the thick foliage and escaped his view for several days. He always marveled when any of his plants did well because he was convinced we had the poorest dirt in town.

Just about time the last plant withered and died at summer’s end, he declared that he would probably not have a garden the next year. He had decided that it was too much work, he had to battle too many weeds, seeds were too expensive, and the weather was often uncooperative. I agreed with him, pointing out that he worked too hard in that heat anyway. After all, he reasoned, we could find nice vegetables at produce stands or buy frozen ones at the grocery store.

I left unsaid another reason to cease gardening—the critters that visited our yard all year long. Although we tossed out grain for birds, the squirrels, numerous chipmunks and, once in a while, a rabbit, made themselves at home in the garden. One day I saw a squirrel race up a tree with a small eggplant, settle on a limb, and shred some of the skin from it. Playful squirrels nipped at tomatoes and birds pecked them, leaving them unfit for human consumption. Rabbits just helped themselves to whatever they wanted.

When my husband counted off all those reasons for “no garden next year,” I knew he was serious then. But I knew that come spring, he would forget all that. The fever to plant, to watch his garden grow, urged on by several seed catalogs emerging from our mailbox in early spring, just overpowered him.

That garden he was not going to have slowly grew from just a few tomato plants, to several hills of squash, a bit of okra, five or six eggplants and some cucumbers, just to see if they would produce.

After all, we agreed, what was more satisfying than eating vegetables harvested from your own garden?


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.