I love the garden. The dirt, freshly tilled and pungent with the scent of spring. The little bugs that crawl about as I work. The slight breeze on my face. The green poking up through the earth, reaching for the promise of the sun. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I even like weeding. I like to weed when it’s sunny, the ground is soaked from some recent rain, and you know that every weed you pull will come easily, bringing its fickle roots along for the upheaval. The best thing about gardening, though? The anticipation. The toil. The waiting. And then, the fruition. So understand me when I say that today is a big deal.
Approximately twenty four months ago, I read a book. Six months later, I planted asparagus. The book made the cultivating of asparagus sound like an endeavor of beautiful, poetic, worthy occupation. The description of stalks rushing up in haste through the soil thrilled me as I read throughout that long winter, and I couldn’t wait for the boxes of roots to arrive, so I could begin my well-though-out patch of loveliness.
One warm Saturday morning in the fall, we planted. All 5 of us were out there, digging and weeding, mounding large trenches over our roots. It was hot, long work, but we were happily thinking of the reward we’d get.
A year ago in spring, the asparagus stalks came up, and we admired their staunch form, wishing we could cut a little snippet. Just to test. But I was adamant that we follow the rules, and not harvest until the second year. And even then, I warned the family, we could just take a handful– so that the roots would get deeper and the following crops could be abundant.
And then today happened. I had been checking the patch faithfully over the last two weeks, and saw nothing. I even scratched away a little soil to look for a little stub of root. Nothing. We had beautiful sun and some rain, and I didn’t check the patch for a week. This afternoon, Paul came inside from the rain and mentioned in an off-hand way, “The asparagus is up. It’s getting really tall. ‘Saw it when I mowed the other day.” I was thrilled it had made its long-awaited appearance, but my heart sank a little. I had checked so many times, not wanting the shoots to get too tall and become tough, or leaf out before I had a chance to pick them. I rushed outside into the grey dampness with Joel, and found a number of stalks already to my waist, far too thick and stubborn to eat. But there were some delightful, pencil-thick stems just the right size for eating. So we snapped them off (what a delicious sound!) and brought them inside. Trust me when I say it was a big deal. Twenty minutes after picking those asparagus stalks, we were enjoying their green goodness. Delightful. Tender. Almost sweet. You would have thought it was a delicacy the way we exclaimed and savored each bite. Paul, who isn’t a fan of (some) green vegetables, said that he’d never had vegetables so delicious. Joel, who is loves vegetables as much as his mother, couldn’t get enough. Connor and Nora, well, they didn’t go near the stuff. (Nothing new there.) I’m already planning on planting another patch. I don’t know if the excellent flavor is all in our heads. Do they taste so good because we grew them and remember the hard work, because we know that we can’t pick anymore this season– or is it a valid assessment of flavor, from some superior variety and freshness? Whatever the case, Barbara Kingsolver was right. It was definitely an endeavor of worthy proportions. (And her book? Quite an endeavor in itself. Read it if you like.)
So there you have it. I love to garden. I warned you. Who knew that I could write 682 words– about asparagus? Well, it was a big deal. I may seem a little odd, I know. My consolation? I can guarantee that my sisters (and a certain friend who borrowed the book) completely understand my thoughts on this topic. Which, of course, makes me feel a little better. Oddity, like misery, deserves a little company now and then, too.
I love, love this quote:
“Gardening is not a rational act.”
-Margaret Atwood, author, poet, critic, and I assume – gardener. (I think she would understand me.)