Thursday, April 09, 2009

Call any vegetable

Call any vegetable, call it by name
Call one today when you get off the train
Call any vegetable and the chances are good
The vegetable will respond to you
The Mothers of Invention

There are some serious vegetable gardens around here. If you live in an established neighborhood with backyards, you probably know a few. Two local gardens are in sideyards, so I see them start to come alive in early March or a warm day in late February when overnite the the soil is roughly turned over, preparations have moved outdoors. In fact, those gardeners are gardening year round. They organize the garden for maximum production, & I watch the various crops grow as the season progresses. One of the gardens includes cauliflower & broccoli. The other does a wide variety of peppers of many sizes, shapes & colors. Specialties. Beans running up fences. They grow enough of some vegetables for freezing or canning. The Obamas aren't garden people. Nobody in that family is into pulling around a little wagon filled with dirty garden tools, or fighting with muddy, leaky hose nozzles. The White House groundskeepers either resent having to care for a vegetable garden they can't consume, or they enjoy the change of pace from tending flowers & lawns.

A lot of folks are learning this year that starting a veggie garden from scratch is neither easy nor economical. Small gardens never pay off. The only reason to dabble is to have a few fresh easy-to-grow veggies for taste. At the same time you harvest a measly crop of string beans, dig up woody carrots twisted into lewd shapes, & lament the shrunken, wormy eggplants, those same veggies & more arrive at the Jersey Fresh farmer's market downtown, grown by real, professional Jersey truck farmers, who need our support. You might find little new potatoes & crunchy soy beans in the shell, also grown in Jersey (both tastily microwavable).

There are a few things worth growing, & fairly easy to cultivate. Tomatoes, of course, if no friends or relatives supply you with them when the bumper crop comes in. If there's a bumper crop. Leafy lettuces don't need much help once they're spaced out & weeded, & you can snip off leaves for salads & let the plants keep producing. If you like radishes, they're worthwhile because they taste incredible fresh, & leaves the beetles haven't found are spicy salad garnishes. Birds love sunflower seeds; grow a few sunflowers & dry the heads or just leave them on the stalks as natural feeders. & kids love pumpkins & gourds if you have the vine crawling space. But you can get miles of vine & leaves & nothing else. Don't let anyone talk you into planting raspberry bushes, you'll be sorry. They'll take over your yard & spew out hordes of mosquitoes at dusk.

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