I am not a big garden journal keeper. At the beginning of the year, I try to record the dates that I planted everything, inside the house and out. I draw up my garden plan so that I can rotate the plants to different beds next year. I keep a list of my seed orders. At the end of the year I write an account of what did well and what I might want to try the following year. I do this mostly because I have a horrible memory. One thing that will go on this year’s account is the way I lost track of the pepper plants. Last night I stuffed what I thought were jalapenos, only to discover they had no kick at all, and so were just small (green) paprikas! And I ended up with four Thai rooster pepper plants, when really, one is enough. (Though I only thought too late that I should have dried some of those and ground them for hot pepper, too!)
This year, I also decided to try writing a poem about the garden. And here it is, a litany.
Eating the Garden
We began with arugula and other delicate leaves
that went limp when we washed them, from the windowsill.
In the cold frame the young greens stayed young
and the spinach froze, and we brushed off the snow into May.
Then with one day’s sudden warmth, the spinach bolted.
We cut the emerging asparagus stalks at their cold roots.
We pulled up rhubarb and made bars, then made jam.
We pulled too soon the wispy parsnips, pale from winter sleep,
to make room for chard and carrots and the kale that is with us still.
We ate radishes, fried in a pan, with their greens.
We ate the peas in their pods, peas snapped, peas shelled.
We ate the curly lettuce, the tender lettuce, and the romaine heads.
We ate the beets and their greens (greens, always greens).
We roasted and sliced and pureed the beets into bright pink pesto.
We wondered what comes next, tired of greens.
We hungered for cucumbers and watched the bees in the blossoms.
We made dressings, bought fancy vinegar, bought buttermilk.
We ate carrots, then, and broccoli. We ate beans.
The onions lay down and the garlic ripened, and we dried them on an old bed frame
and tucked them into burlap-lined laundry baskets in the basement.
We filled a Royal Basmati Rice sack with garlic heads and zipped it closed.
Then, finally, we ate the cucumbers and summer squash.
We searched for it under giant leaves, caught it small, grilled and sliced.
We reached through the trellis for the prickly cukes. We made pickles with the copious dill.
We protected the snow white heads of cauliflower from the sun with their own leaves.
We harvested the precious few, grown large and meaty, and had a feast.
Then we ate cherry tomatoes, grilled and raw, popped in our mouths,
with basil and oil and vinegar, alongside every dish. We made salsa,
and the tomatillos came, and we made sauce and jam and salsa some more,
and the full-grown tomatoes, and we sliced them on sandwiches
and stuffed them into jars for winter stews, and made sauce.
We made pesto and froze it in ice cube trays, then bags.
We dug potatoes by the bucketful and beans and more beans.
We planted more beets, then, and turnips, and greens.
They languished in the late heat and drought, but then they quickly grew.
We bought corn from the farmer and cut it from the cob for winter.
We ate it by the dozen, even though we had too many vegetables to eat.
We shelled dry beans and cooked the not-so-dry beans and ate them.
We cut the Brussels sprouts from the stalks and ate them.
We were glad we didn’t plant cabbage, even as we scanned ads for sauerkraut crocks.
We made pepper sauce and our favorite Indian dishes, with tomatoes and peppers and spice.
We made tomato soup and pepper soup and stuffed the peppers with cheese.
We strung the paprika for drying and grinding. We froze the poblanos.
We ate the watermelon, almost too late, heavy and sweet.
We were disappointed by the winter squash, even as it filled our baskets:
butternut, delicia, pumpkin, delicata. We prepared to roast. And roast and roast.
We dreamed of soup, of pies, of stews. We filled the pantry shelves with jars.
We took down the trellises. We picked our peck of apples.
We pulled up the leeks, narrow but deep, and prized them, and made them last,
and everything made with them was good.
As usual, we ignored the kale and chard, and then we were grateful for it.
We heard the first shots of pheasant season, then deer.
We saw the cranes make their last flight over our heads, north to south.
We planted the garlic cloves and heaped their beds with straw.
We dug in compost and stored the cages and hoses and stakes.
All along we gave away, grateful, wishing there was more to give away.