Each year, I play a little game I like to call “How Long Throughout The Winter Can I Stretch My Fresh Home Grown Food?” I am acutely aware of my privilege that this can be a game and not, as my Ancestors knew, a dire need to keep myself alive. Blessed be the ease with which we feed ourselves!
A few years ago I had a plethora of tomatoes. I let a few of the plants continue to flower through the summer so by late autumn I was able to harvest many green ones still on the vine. They slowly ripened in the waning sun on my windowsill, and I ceremoniously consumed the last one mid January. But that was an unusual year.
Make sure to grow root vegetables for this reason, as well as for how delicious they are. They keep. I had a good crop of beets and carrots last year. I pulled the carrots as needed from late Summer through Autumn and in early December-after the first frost which they say makes them sweeter- I harvested the last of them and smugly placed them in the crisper. Game on!
It is late February as I write this and recently I ate the last of the beets. Small, beautiful, earthy and sweet, they stained my cutting board and then graced my plate. I never tire of how wonderful it feels to eat the food I have grown myself. I've been thinking how I will add one carrot at a time to my salads, strategically saving them until early spring brings forth the first spear of asparagus in my garden. And then I will win my internal game that no one knows about because I will have bridged the seasons with my garden’s bounty. Silly I know. One last carrot will not sustain my body, but it sure sustains my soul. It keeps me ever mindful and grateful for the food I am about to receive.
Last weekend I opened the fridge and reached into the crisper in preparation for salad making, carrots in mind. I spied the bag of bright orange; five small ones left. But when I picked them up, I could feel through the plastic that they had turned to mush! My stalwart carrots had failed me! And it was still too early for the asparagus. Game over. Oh well. Good thing it’s just a game.
This morning, as I wiped the kitchen counter, my eyes rested on the fruit bowl I keep there. Focused only on my root crops, I had forgotten about the volunteer pumpkin and four delicata squash I had harvested from the soil spread out of the compost pile the year before! There they were among the apples and pears- cheerful and bright and orange, hardy and ready to be cooked. Guess I am going to win my little game this year after all.
I know it seems witless to write about something that many would consider so insignificant. But I am an urban woman who longs for a deeper connection to the earth that sustains her. I am an urban woman whose ambitious garden is the thing that keeps her sane, whose little food stretching game keeps her reverent, whose delight and disappointment in something as simple as a carrot reminds her of what it means to be human.
Today, the northwest rain keeps shape shifting to and from snow. The brave sprouted bulbs in my garden shiver intrepidly but manage to stay green in the cold. Early crocus and primrose splash color on the landscape. Tonight? Baked squash! I'm going to save the pumpkin and see if it lasts through March.