Time travel

“Be in the moment” seems to be the phrase of the moment, and there are lots of ways to do it: you can bake bread, take up a musical instrument, practice meditation, or—if the marketing team at Lululemon has their way—take a course of retail therapy.

Gardening is supposed to be one of those things that keep you in the moment, but it’s not working for me right now. I’m too impatient. The crops planted in early May are just starting to emerge. Soft, needle-thin tops for the carrots give a sense of the pointy shape growing below ground, just as the garnet-edged beet leaflets signal something about their bulbous roots. Dark green arugula sprouts have already been found by the perforating flea beetles, despite the fact that I moved them—and the rest of their family—to a completely different section of the garden this year.

It is fun, in this fourth year of gardening, to be able to recognize the subtle differences between the various kinds of newborn plants. I have a rogue potato plant coming up in the back quadrant, near where the compost pile used to be. Last year, I would’ve taken it for an unusual weed, but this year I know better and will let it stay where it sprouted.

There is a lot of promise…. but there is nothing to DO. Still too early to thin the seedlings, pinch the tomatoes, or guide the peas to their posts. Last weekend, when the weather was lovely, I would’ve even been happy to do some weeding (!), but apparently we did a pretty thorough job of preparing the beds the week before.

And of course, there is nothing to EAT. I’ve been hitting the chard pretty hard, so it needs to be left alone to recover, and nothing else is anywhere near being ready. Thank goodness for the farmers who show up to the market on Saturday. They have cold frames and greenhouses. They put things in the ground in March and April and then swaddle them against the cold. There isn’t a lot to choose from yet, it’s true, but certainly there is a more interesting harvest than in my yard, including wee sweet turnips (with their greens) and some greenhouse tomatoes.000_0665

Eating seasonally is another way of being in the moment, and one that’s getting a lot of attention of late. We have complicated matters with all the technology available to us, but I’m not sure that’s always such a bad thing. For instance, pesto. I never make it in the summer, probably because it means I either have to pull out a blender or spend a lot of time communing with a mortar and pestle. With all the simpler pleasures to be had, why bother? But at the end of the season, I spend the better part of a day whirring basil and arugula with nuts and oil, freezing it flat in Ziploc bags. Then, when I arrive for a winter weekend, I can whack off a bit, grate some cheese, and pour a glass of wine in the time it takes the pasta water to boil. Pesto, for me, is the taste of unwinding after a long drive and waiting for the furnace to take the chill out of the air.

Toward the end of last summer, I needed to bring a dish to a party. I had a surfeit of squash and a scarcity of creativity, but I rummaged around in the freezer and found some of the previous year’s pesto…. and the pairing was a hit. “Tastes like summer,” someone said. Maybe to her…

Eating seasonally is a good thing, but putting things by is also pretty cool. Last year was the first time I attempted canning, as opposed to just freezing, some of the garden’s yield. The exercise kept me in the moment in the way that Ashtanga practice kept me in the moment in the beginning: it was hard and sweaty and potentially dangerous. Am I doing this right?!? Pay attention or pay the consequences. After all that work, I didn’t have any immediate desire to taste the fruit of my labors. To tell the truth, I was a little scared, and not just of botulism: what if, for all that work, the pickled beets tasted terrible? I had actually forgotten about them until last weekend, when I took my first kayak spin of the season with several friends. When it was all over, we retired to the porch, ravenous. Our hostess made popcorn and pulled out a jar of those forgotten pickles, and we fished them out of the purplish syrup with our fingers. Beneath the vinegar and spice they tasted sweet and dirty. The taste of high summer? Fall canning season? Winter provisions? Kayak spring? Whatever. They were delicious.000_0671

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