Summer Gardens

“Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of color before me, who could ask for more?”
– Bev Adams, Mountain Gardening

Growing up on a farm, our garden was an everyday part of summer life. The plot was on the back corner of the land around our house, next to the oldest shed and the only free-standing water pump. We learned how to tell weeds from crops early on, and Mom and Dad put us to work watering and weeding long before we learned to appreciate the results of our hard work.

Behind the shed, red raspberry and blackberry bushes haunted our nightmares with their brambly, scratchy vines reaching out for us as their fruit grew and ripened. As the youngest child, I was spared most of that fun until my older siblings were no longer there to brave those gatherings. The back rows of the garden were reserved for the tall sweet corn stalks. Plant varieties grew progressively shorter as they got closer to the front – we were nothing if not organized in our creation. Mounded piles of dirt along the southern edge signaled the coming of snakelike vines from the zucchini, summer squash, and various melon plants. The asparagus patch and rhubarb bed marked the edge of the front corner. Poles for beans and tomato plants stood like sentinels in the night.

The front rows were planted with peas and lettuce, carrots and beets, onions, potato plants and any other items we chose to put in that year. As we grew older, Mom and Dad would let us help select what to plant outside of the basic staples. One year, Mom tried Jerusalem artichokes, another brussel sprouts. There were not, shall I say, raging successes. Oh, they grew, like the dickens, but they didn’t find quite the same welcome on the summertime table as some of the other produce.

“You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.”
– Mario Batali

As I wander the produce section in the grocery store and even some of the many farmer’s markets that we are blessed with in the area, I still can’t find a truly ruby-red, drippingly succulent slice of watermelon the way it used to taste.

I long for the taste of produce in the garden. Standing dirt-dusted, hot, and sweaty, with a fresh tomato or a purloined green bean in my hand, tasting the summer sunshine, the good Midwestern dirt, and the love in every bite.

That, to me, is the epitome of summertime at its finest….. and worth a little hot weather now and then.

What did you grow in your garden?


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