Containing My Enthusiasm


Plant a cabbage Get a cabbage
not a Brussels sprout
That’s why I love vegetables
You know what you’re about
. -The Fantasticks

My father was the quintessential gardener. From the time he bought his first house at age 47, with a quarter of an acre of land, he never failed to raise a bountiful annual crop of beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, zucchini and more. He grafted apple trees, experimented with new varieties of veggies, composted, knew about earthworms and their castings, and was way ahead of his time when it came to using natural pesticides. He could grow anything. And he did. During the summer our neighbor’s grocery bills must have precipitously declined as he shared his prodigious harvests with them. He was never so happy as when he was working in his garden: planting, pulling, plucking, whistling the same tuneless song, over and over again.

The only fly in the ointment was my very obvious disinterest in all aspects of the gardening process, except for eating the end results. I didn’t “get” the magic of sprouting seeds. I didn’t want to get my hands dirty. The gardening gloves made my hands too itchy. Weeding and watering were beyond boring. Even the plump tomatoes and fragrant beans didn’t seem worth the effort. “Why can’t we just get our vegetables at the store like everyone else?” I asked (but have blanked out the response).
Fast forward to 2013. As a sixty-something ,I have finally discovered the joys of growing my own vegetables in two whiskey barrels on my deck. They are planted with Swiss Chard, herbs (Basil, Sage, Parsely), tomatoes (with a cage), bush beans, and onions. There are also a few marigolds and sunflowers.

Last night I harvested my Swiss Chard for the first time and sautéed it with a little onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and mushrooms. There was barely enough for two adults but I enjoyed each tender, buttery morsel. It was the best vegetable I have ever tasted. … Clearly some of the special “seasoning” came from the gratifying experience of my having chosen the seeds, watched them sprout, faithfully watered and weeded the developing seedlings, and found pleasure in the rich color of their greenish red leaves and bright stalks. So I guess I’m hooked!

But I’m not kidding myself. Two containers is plenty for now. I probably will never have the time or interest to replicate my father’s lavish garden. But I’m having fun and I like to think my father would approve.

Life is merry
If it’s very
A (wo)man who plants a garden
Is a very happy (wo)man.
A vegetary
Very merry
. – The Fantasticks

Categories: wisdom

3 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing. My grandfather, as well, was a gardener. To this day I believe I’ve not tasted tomatoes or kale better than that straight from his garden. Good memories.

  2. Ah, the sweet taste of one’s dive into something new. Nothing will ever be as savory as each season’s first tomato or bean or…taken with enthusiasm and love. While it may be primal, these experiences also indulge one’s senses. Congratulations on your discovery.

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