Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Lessons in Gardening—#2 The Harvest

On my cell phone there's a photo of a dark, shiny, perfect zucchini resting on a board next to a very, very small carrot. This photo cheers me. I sent it to my gf, entitled "World's smallest carrot," but with pride.

Somebody, presumably a squirrel, nibbled the very first, smallest sprouts of rainbow chard and beets, so those never prospered. But carrot greens did not appeal.

The carrots never did get more than 4 inches long, but by early September they were crisp, tender, delicious! The zucchini were marvelous. Peering amongst the enormous furred green leaves, I picked about one zuch a week, sometimes two, from the four plants that grew. And they would have kept on coming. There were lovely orange flowers promising a future right up until the frost.

Oh, but the corn. The lovely, impressive, glossy, rustling, tasseled corn. It was a crop, not a garden vegetable! I adored the corn. It stood like a forest. It waved and glistened in the sun. I watered it religiously. I calculated the cost of the water versus the value of the four short rows of that ancient gold. I smiled at the haze of bees circling in the heat above the corn. I palpated the plumping ears and tried so hard to guess what was going on beneath the green husks. One day at the end of July, I twisted an ear off the stalk and pulled it open. Small, tender kernels, but only a smattering of them. Another 2 weeks, I estimated.

Then, the moment of truth. In August I picked another ear and unzipped it. The kernels were filled in and firm all the way to the top. Excitedly, I carried the ear up the backstairs to the kitchen, boiled up some water and dropped in the ear. Five minutes later, the butter dripping, I bit into my precious food. Gummy, chewy, and flavorless! Say it ain't so… But it was. A total loss. Cow corn and no cows. Friends offered condolences: it's hard to grow corn around here. They offered analysis: maybe not enough water, maybe not a good variety for a dry climate.

The pale stalks stand ragged, desolate, above a dusting of snow. I plan for spring.