Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Dirty Little Secrets

The Farmer's Market got me thinking. When I started a garden I expected my produce to look like the stuff at the grocery store, only better, and better tasting. Sort of like the farmer's market. You know the look:
Everything in neat rows. Everything the same size.

The reality? Not pretty. Tomatoes are mis-shapen, different sizes. And there are never enough for what you're planning for dinner - until there are too many.

Figs too. And beans - they ripen one at a time - until you go on vacation. Then it's whoopee! and they all ripen at once. You come home to huge bean pods weighing down the plants, turning to brown, too far gone for green beans but not dry enough for shelling beans. Don't get any ideas about making the best of things and having dried beans for soup. The raccoons have other plans.

So the following year you cancel your vacation, and wait for the garden to ripen. Sorry - not this year. That will be the year the flea beetles get the beans, the corn earworm gets the corn, and the tomatoes succumb to some of the myriad of diseases they are famous for. My sister had the most beautiful tomato plants, tall and leafy and loaded with fruit. And every year, just as they were beginning to salivate over the first almost ripe tomato, anticipating that vine-ripe warm from the sun taste, the tomato plants would collapse in a wilted heap. Verticillium, fusarium, you name it, they had it.

They tried raised beds. They tried pots. They finally moved, and now they live where it is almost too cold to ripen a tomato. I am thinking of getting them a greenhouse. Or a share in a central valley tomato farm.

In my garden, when I need a pound of ripe figs I will have ten pounds. When  I want ten pounds to make pickled figs (or Fickle Pigs as we like to call them) and to share with the neighbors I will have one ripe fig and a lot of fat happy birds. And squirrels. And rats.

I have taken a major position in Critter Ridder. I have taken a more philosophical attitude toward the garden. We eat the good, compost the bad, and are not so fussy about the ugly. But as delicious and frustrating as it is, it doesn't look like the produce department, and it sure as heck doesn't look like the farmer's market.

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