Perhaps it’s beginner’s luck. Perhaps it’s the perfect summer weather. Perhaps it’s that my vegetable patch lay fallow for almost five years.
Whatever the reason, my most recent attempt at backyard farming has yielded a banner crop.
Oh, I didn’t grown much. I just wanted to try my luck with a few favorites. So I bought some plants: watermelon, eggplant, jalapeno peppers. And, as every Jersey girl knows: tomatoes! I dutifully planted on Mother’s Day weekend and held my breath.
The jalapeno peppers burst on the scene first. Who knew four little plants could be so generous? I would have appreciated if they had waited until some of the other veggies were ready. Instead, from the end of June until this writing, I have been gifted with at least six hot little numbers a day! I have had peppers on sandwiches, peppers in sauces, peppers in salsa…you get the idea.
The tomatoes arrived next. First, the little grape tomatoes. These tasty berries proliferated wildly. Since Fourth of July, I have harvested at least a quart of tomatoes a day. Tomatoes on sandwiches, tomatoes in sauces, tomatoes in salsa…you get the idea.
Next came the Rutgers variety: huge, round slicing tomatoes. Two or three a day. Tomatoes on sandwiches, tomatoes in sauces, tomatoes in salsa…
Then, eggplant. Purple. Plump. Huge leaves swaying in the breeze. By mid-July, I was picking at least six eggplant a week. Eggplant on sandwiches, eggplant in sauces…no eggplant in salsa, at least not yet.
Finally, the watermelon. A little iffy, these. Even now, I have difficulty telling for sure which are ripe. Still, I have picked six watermelon so far. Three were hits: ripe, red, juicy. Three were misses: pale, tart, tough. A few more still dangle tantalizingly on the vine.
Because I underestimated the hardiness of my crop or my gardening skills, or both, I have been reaping more veggies than one woman can consume. Or freeze. Or can. As a happy consequence, my friends and neighbors have been reaping the benefits.
There is something delightful in being the “veggie fairy.” My neighbor, Mark – and almost every tenant he has had this summer - has been surprised every Saturday morning with a bag of tomatoes, a couple of eggplant, and a mandatory handful of jalapenos. June and Joe, my neighbors and good friends, have been greeted after Mass with bags of veggies - if I haven’t already left a sack on their porch! My friend Laura and her daughter Kimberly: bags of tomatoes. They have been spared the eggplant and jalapenos, but were willing to experiment on a couple of watermelons with me. Deb, from gym class, however, actually requested eggplant. I was only too happy to oblige. When my sisters and my friend Kathryn came to visit, I let them loose in the veggie patch. They each took home bags of tomatoes. And I still have plenty to spare. My friend Loretta, who doesn’t even eat tomatoes, obligingly took a bag off my hands. Even Terry Irving: when he stopped by to drop off autographed copies of his novel, “Courier,” he could not get out the door without taking tomatoes with him!
And the “veggie fairy” has also been surprised. My bags of veggies have returned to me in the form of three different dinners with Laura. June made sure she shared with me her homemade eggplant parmigiana. Gifts from my garden, regifted!
I hope this spectacular season hasn’t spoiled me for future farming efforts. Next year, I am hoping to have corn, lima beans, sunflowers.
And, of course, tomatoes.