silver lining for a spring exile

Kitchen and bathroom renovations kept me away from Roseboom for most of the spring, so I got a late start planting. On the bright side, though, my pantry shelves are still well-stocked with last years’ harvest, something that isn’t usually the case this time of year: jars of shell beans, little bags of dried cherry tomatoes, a pile of potatoes and—wonder of wonders—a closet full of winter squash! (Turns out that, wrapped in newspaper, they really do keep for months and months.) Since June tends to be cold and damp in early summer, it’s been nice to have the fixins for comfort food on hand: White beans stewed with thyme and olive oil. Roasted tomato cornbread. Spicy butternut-peanut stew. Garlicky black beans with chilies and coriander. This is the kind of cooking that sticks to your ribs and sustains you while you work to make the ground hospitable for another years’ worth of food.

And now, in the third week of June, my newest green tenants are beginning to earn their keep. Actually, this weekend you could see the whole cycle of lettucey life in the kitchen plot. Last years’ kale survived the winter and, by last week, had bolted spectacularly. In the space next door, arugula seedlings are beginning to assume something resembling their grown-up form. The few loose heads at prime eating stage are random self-seeders, children of last years’ residents.

Gone-to-seed kale is not nearly so disagreeable as some of its relatives, so when I pulled up the all-but-spent stems, I made sure to strip them of their leaves. Waste not, want not. Whew! Greens season is why I went to the trouble of rescuing this monster sink.

And then the arugula. Last year I let a few plants stick around through their bitter old maturity so I could collect their seeds. For whatever reason—o me of little faith—I didn’t quite trust the little home-harvested beads to germinate, so I sowed them extra thickly. But as is apparent from the picture, I needn’t have worried.

Now, actually, I’m concerned about thinning fast enough to provide the growing plants with the space they need. So I find myself with a luxury of tender young arugula—which happens to make a delicious bed for hot potatoes.

Quite often, the garden is throwing off exactly what I want to eat exactly when I want to eat it. Cool cucumbers, bland squash, dripping tomatoes at the height of summer; earthy potatoes and dense shell beans as the weather turns colder. May and June tend to be a bit more challenging; the winter stores are usually dwindling by then, and much as I love the first astringent greens that signal spring, they’re just a little too wet and flimsy to sustain me through the cold, rainy season. But since the renovations kept me out of the pantry as surely as a row of crushed eggshells keeps the slugs away from the lettuce, I have the best of both worlds this year.

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One Comment on “silver lining for a spring exile”

  1. Mike Says:

    Another great post. I have a good friend that lives in Salt Springville, and she said she is finally able to devote some time to her garden as of late.


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