Kick It Root Down

Growing up, my parents always had a garden. They planted flowers, herbs, vegetables, even fruit trees. Some of my earliest memories are from their garden. Eating raspberries still brings me back to our old Sacramento back yard. In kindergarten, I brought a green tomato worm to show-and-tell. My mom says that as a kid, I ate bell peppers like apples, right off the stalk.

Despite my early exposure, I never cared much about gardening myself until I got interested in where food comes from. Learning about food production and about farms led me back to those early memories of eating out of our back yard gardens.

In San Francisco, we’ve rarely had the outdoor space necessary to grow anything but some herbs. To get our hands in the dirt, Mr. WholeHog and I would often help our parents put in their summer vegetable gardens in early May (and we’d return in August to help harvest some of what we’d planted). But this arrangement meant that we missed most of the growing process, we didn’t get to see the seeds we planted begin to sprout, or the sprouts start to look like recognizable vegetables. And that transformation is one of the things I’m most enjoying about our first garden.

Thanks to Mr. WholeHog’s efforts, we are trying to grow some of our own food this year. While I’ve helped plant some spinach and chard seeds, he’s the resident master gardener.  He’s the one who remembers to water the plants every day, and the one who goes out in the dark to hunt the snails snacking on our young plants. He thinks to put netting over newly planted seeds to keep the birds from getting at them, and doses the plants with concoctions that I’ve never heard of, like fish emulsion.

I mostly admire the way his efforts pay off, how the flowers morph into a sugar snap pea or a fava bean pod or a green strawberry that ripens a little more every week. We didn’t mark down which planters had spinach seeds and which had chard, so we waited to see the tell-tale bumpy, green leaves of Bloomsdale spinach (as shown above) and for the rainbow chard to show off its hot pink legs.

The convenience of having food growing right outside your door can’t be beat. If a recipe calls for parsley, I walk out our front door and pick some. If we need more greens, we can go out back and cut some spinach or arugula. (Arugula grows like mad — if you want to plant something that takes little care and grows quickly, look no further. My parents’ arugula jumped its raised bed and is now growing all over).

When my parents and sister were over for dinner last month, I picked some of our front yard favas to use in place of peas in Zuni’s pasta carbonara and my family sat around our dining room table and shucked the home-grown fava beans. It felt very country in the City.

While we’ve picked a little of this or that, our mini garden hasn’t produced enough to really feed us on a regular basis. Our lone sugar snap plant produced about six peas total, which, for me, isn’t even a single serving. The four planters of fava beans were more productive, but resulted in just a meal or two. We can have a salad from our lettuce crop tonight, but that means no salad tomorrow, the next day or even for the next week or two. (Our thriving parsley plant is one exception).

Of course, we also didn’t plant large amounts of any one crop, and we didn’t focus only on breeds known for being super-productive either. We went for what we thought would be fun to grow, so maybe it’s no surprise that we ended up with little bit of many different foods: a few peas and favas, a variety of leafy greens, a stalk or two of cardoons, some strawberries, and, hopefully, this summer, tomatoes.

It’s been really satisfying to see that we can grow so many different things in such a small space — and in containers no less. It’s shown us that we want to grow more and prompted us to get on a waiting list for a plot at a community garden.

Even if our little garden doesn’t provide us with nightly dinners, it gives us something to snack on while we wait for a bigger space to put down roots.

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2 Responses to “Kick It Root Down”

  1. mary evelyn Says:

    The picture of us drinking beer, laughing & shucking fava’s at your dining table while Mr. Whole Hog did his magic in the kitchen is etched in my mind. And dinner was ooh la la.

  2. superpissed Says:

    Total ooh la la. We’rethsocool.

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