Columnist John Moore: The Garden of Eatin'

Published on Friday, 12 May 2017 19:48 - Written by John Moore, john@johnmoore.net

At first, it looked like an onion sitting on the counter. As I got closer, the end still looked just looked like an onion, but it was actually the first yellow squash from our spring garden.

The onions won’t be far behind.

There is a sense of independence and pride that comes with being able to walk out your back door and harvest most, if not all, of your evening meal.

I can’t take much credit for our garden, because my wife does virtually all of the work.

However, I do enjoy cooking and I love having the ability to go outside with an empty bowl and return with it full of jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, peas, and other homegrown vegetables that can be made into a meal.

Gardening is enjoying a resurgence. I believe that part of it is the fulfilling aspect of gardening as a hobby, but I also think that like my wife and I, many folks want to know exactly what they’re eating.

Genetically modified anything isn’t appealing to me, especially not when it relates to the fuel that we put into our bodies.

Growing up in Southwest Arkansas, virtually everyone I knew, my family included, had a garden. It was not my favorite thing, for sure. The itchiness of the okra and tomatoes and the sweat pouring down in my eyes from the hot summer are still fresh in my mind. So are the memories of sharing that bounty with family members who are no longer with us.

Families then were known for their skills at raising certain types of vegetables or fruit. One man was famous for the size of his watermelons. Another was renowned for the size and sweetness of his corn. One lady could grow bigger tomatoes than most others.

People would trade what they were good at growing with others who were good at growing something else.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to be sitting in the living room on Beech Street watching Sanford and Son or another of my favorite shows, when I’d hear someone call through the screen door.

“Yoo hoo. Anybody home?” they’d say.

It might be a neighbor or a relative. They’d come calling with their bags of bounty.

“Yes, sir,” or “Yes, ma’am,” I’d respond.

They’d let themselves in when they heard me answer, then ask where my mother was. I’d ask them to have a seat and then I’d track down my mom, who might be hanging clothes out to dry on the line, or might actually be in the garden.

My mom would come in the house and be surprised and smile. She would thank them for coming by and then offer them some of what she had grown and harvested.

Dropping off some of your garden’s produce was a means to an end. It not only allowed you to show off what you knew how to raise, it was also a reason to visit and drink coffee. It was face time with people you cared for.

Most of those folks are gone now.

Today, my wife raises lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, peas, onions, garlic, herbs, and of course, squash.

My job is to keep an eye out for the rabbits and run them out of the garden when I see them. Unfortunately, I seem to be failing miserably. The evidence of their frequent visits is undeniable.

But, visits from friends and relatives are also taking place. Yesterday, one of our kids left with the squash I thought looked like an onion, and a bag of peas. My wife will likely repeat her barter transactions of years past and trade some of her produce for others’ vegetables, or honey from some friends we know who raise bees.

It’s truly amazing what a small patch of God’s green earth can give us. It’s more than vegetables. It’s face time with people who won’t always be here.

©2017 John Moore

Email John at john@johnmoore.net