Itís time to reap what we sow (in the garden)

Monday, August 20, 2018

You reap what you sow.

I thought about that admonition the other day as I was out in the garden, so lovingly sown by my husband. He's the sower in our family, and the tender of the crops. He hands off much of the reaping and dealing with the fruits of his labor to me. Our tag-team garden method has worked well for a long time.

In a world that moves faster and faster it seems, there's something about the repetition of lifting leaves and plucking the perfect green bean, over and over and over again that is both incredibly relaxing and perfectly satisfying. On our quiet gravel road, with the occasional bird song and rustle of the wind through the corn field serving as musical accompaniment, I can really zone out the problems of the world and just be.

We aren't perfect gardeners, my husband and I. There's a worrisome wilt that may take our Roma tomatoes before we're able to whip up enough batches of garden marinara; and the basil bloomed in record time, rendering the leaves bitter before I had stocked up enough pesto to hold us through the winter. In some spots you would be excused for believing that water weed is, indeed, a cultivated crop in our field. Despite its shortcomings, our garden provides deliciously this time of the year.

I don't know if it appeals to our rural upbringing, but time spent in a garden, on a summer day, feels just right. And, while there are plenty of good options for buying just-picked fruits and veggies this time of the year, I imagine a bite out of a tomato plucked 40 feet from my kitchen window and rinsed under a garden hose tastes even more sublime than any purchased fruit ever could.

Sometimes Iowa just isn't the perfect place to grow a crop that defines summer. Our winters are too long and too cold, for peaches, a fruit that brings back so many wonderful memories of childhood. The aroma of a ripe peach, however, evokes vividly my childhood summers.

Grandpa Johnson was a master of selecting a perfect lug of peaches from the local grocery store. He would seek out a bag boy, have him fetch a hammer to pry open the boxes and, with a connoisseurs' skill, carefully unwrap a specimen from its tissue paper nest. He would apply subtle pressure, then bend in close for a whiff. Without cutting into a single one, he always brought home a lug or two of picture-perfect Georgia peaches. Grandma would can many, and bake with them, but I think we all loved them best sliced up with a bit of sugar and a splash of cream.

I didn't inherit his gift, and the peaches I bring home often retain their rocklike consistency until they turn brown and shrivel away.

My summer holy grail is a lug of perfect peaches. I came close a couple of years ago on a trip to Colorado to pick up our son from his summer job in the mountains. Those peaches were truly Grandpa Johnson-worthy, so juicy that when you bit in the evidence of perfection rolled down your face. We treasured that lug of peaches and savored every one. With no Colorado trips in peach season this year, I fear I won't gain peach nirvana.

My apple trees are doing their best to provide solace, with limbs bending precariously low, laden with fruit, and those raspberries beginning to set and promising a fall filled with cobblers and pies.

So, I guess instead of dreaming of peaches, Iíll enjoy the goodies from the garden, knowing that ó like Iowa summers ó they will be gone too soon.