What defines faith better that a gardener in early Spring? You plow up the dirt and drop in a tiny seed, the whole time in your head dances pictures of lush greenery and baskets of fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables. You just KNOW those lovely little tomato plants are going to produce so much you’ll have stuff to give to neighbors, and the lovely vines of cucumbers crawling up the fence will give enough to have a crisp cool salad every day.
Reality, not so much. The tomatoes are…feeble at best. Those lovely raised beds, the same ones I compost every fall and fertilize every 3 months have given me a grand total of 3 tomatoes. Small ones. Yes, they tasted better than the grocery store, but c’mon…6 plants? 3 tomatoes? When there’s a fantastic produce market with locally grown largess right there kitty-corner across from the Progressive Primitive Baptist Church (worthy of another post, the name of that church is) one begins to wonder if it’s worth the effort. The only thing really growing well are the peppers and the herbs. SO…
I’ve become a realist. I should grow herbs. Fresh herbs are hard to find, particularly in quantity. I have some already, the basics of oregano, thyme, rosemary and parsley. Basil, tarragon and dill would not go unloved. Sage is nice, too. Therefore a decision, based in reality and not optimism, has been reached. The tomatoes are leaving. Getting ripped out and thrown away. Not in the compost because tomato plants are VERY high in nicotine and that is not healthy for a compost heap. The bed they currently live in will get churned up and planted in tarragon (a lovely perennial with pretty yellow flowers) and dill (I’ve never had too much dill. Love the dill) for both green and seed.
The cucumbers are on probation. The plants are lovely and green, lush and growing everywhere. They are volunteer plants, coming up from a bit that was composted in February. At first I didn’t know if they were cukes or cantalope, but decided they’re lemon cucumbers (fantastic things!!) and FINALLY there appears to be something more than just flowers. If you have never tried a lemon cucumber I highly recommend them, particularly if you live in an area with a short growing season, because they ripen fast. They also grow with great enthusiasm here in the hot Deep South. The hardest part about growing them is knowing when to pick them, because they aren’t like a normal green cuke…so you pick them small. The skin is tough, and they require peeling to eat, but the flesh is sweeter than a green cuke…they are quite wonderful. I had about decided to pull them up beccause all they were doing was bloom bloom like mad but just the male flowers thus no fruits, and there’s quite enough menfolk in my household thank you…I don’t need the plants doing it too…making messes and hogging all the space…hmph. Anyway, it appears they might be making a fruit or two now, but the jury remains out.
So the tide is turning away from the veggies and toward the herbs. At least where tomatoes are concerned. The Kentucky Wonder beans, planted WAAAY late, are coming up and looking healthy. The green peas also WAAAY late, are starting up as well. Thank Goodness we live in a region with a growing season that lasts into December, so planting things in June gets a pass. The school #4 will be going to have a Farmers Market fundraiser every Saturday. They get a booth at the local downtown Farmer’s Market and sell herbs. Perhaps if the ones I plant do well enough I can contribute. That would be nice because the funds go to help pay for the High School kids’ European Tours. Hopefully, if #4 goes to the High School there (as yet undecided but we’re leaning in that direction, given the academic records of the students) he’ll be able to make The Tour and it would be nice to have contributed etc etc…
Anyway, for the annual herbs like dill and basil, I’ll harvest as I can, and freeze it for use in the off season. In the past, 8 basil plants have produced enough for freezing that there is just enough to use until the next summer when it’s ready to harvest again. Frozen herbs are just like fresh only maybe not as pretty, but the flavor is spot on. It’s comfortable and satisfying to open the freezer and have a shelf of gallon bags lined up like happy books, and I can just open one up and break off a handful of something fragrant to throw in the pot.
Thats realism, AND optimism.