I started having problems with my vegetable garden in January. I mean it was OK that the ground was frozen, the land was covered with snow, and a pack of white wolves had moved in and made an encampment on my garden plot, leaving bones around the edges. I’m sure you’ll agree all that sounds normal.
No, my gardening problems started with the January issue of Gourmet magazine.
I hope you’re not thinking that in January I wanted to put on a coat and snuggy cap and gloves and go do something in the garden. I’ve firmly dedicated selected parts of my life to nearly total truth, and that would be a false image of me. In reality, January found me sitting on the couch reading Gourmet, wondering what kinds of snacks were in the kitchen. At that time of year I had no interest in leaving the apartment even to walk to the car, much less think about digging, fertilizing, planting, weeding—all that difficult, unnatural labor connected with the joys of fresh vegetables.
Looking back now, I blame the magazine. In particular, it was the fault of the glossy photo of a tomato cheese tart with fresh thyme. Maybe the glass of wine in the photo was also guilty. As you know—I mean, I only heard this—a glass of wine might be guilty on occasion. When I saw that picture of the tomato cheese tart, I began to swim the green streams of vegetable dreams, with visions of tomatoes and fresh herbs, not on the stem, but in the bowl, on my table. From the comfort of my couch with snack crumbs down in the cushions, I swore I would grow that kind of tomato.
I got on the internet, which has never let me down or misled me, and I see no reason to think it ever will, to see who was selling tomato plants. Did you know there are more than 100,000 varieties of tomato? Something like that. More than ten, anyway. I ordered the varieties Top Sirloin, Oregon Spring, Golden Nugget, Sun Gold, Stupice, Dona, Early Girl, and Brandywine. I figured that should do it. Boy oh boy, I was thinking about pasta with home-made tomato sauce, tomato sandwiches, tomato and mozzarella salads, grilled tomatoes, gazpacho.
A week later, a copy of Bon Appétit came in the mail. There on page 27 was a recipe for grilled asparagus and zucchini with balsamic reduction sauce. I sat looking at it, lusting for grilled vegetables with a piquant sauce. Trying to resist, I watched “Desperate Housewives” on TV, but during an advertisement for salad dressing my resistance broke down, I slunk to the computer, closed the curtains so the neighbors wouldn’t see what I was doing, and ordered asparagus varieties Jersey Supreme, Purple Passion, and Mary Washington Improved. While I was at it, I also ordered several kinds of squash: zucchini, yellow crookneck, patty pan, acorn, spaghetti, and butternut. Plus four kinds of lettuce. And spinach. And collards.
In the next month, as magazines arrived, with their glossy tempting recipes, I went online and ordered corn, green beans, butter beans, English peas, leeks, potatoes (nine types), sweet potatoes, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, lemons (which won’t even grow here), kale, beets, turnips, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, eggplant, and caviar (which I only realized afterward is not even a plant).
I forget what all. I think I had a glass of wine while I was ordering. All I could remember the next morning was something about rhubarb, and I wasn’t going to talk about it.
So now it’s early May, and I’m not sure where the wolves went, though I heard the Pennsylvania legislature is in session, so maybe they’re there. My problem, which began back in January, is that all my seeds and plants have arrived. The sideroom is filled with them, and now I have to ask myself, “What fool ordered all that stuff?” The truth—remember my dedication to nearly total truth?—is that I hate gardening. I did it once, and a bug got on me. Lord, I don’t want to talk about it. It had red eyes. I’m not going through that again.
So what do I do with all these plants and seeds? Here’s my solution. I’m looking through all those cooking magazines for soup recipes. And I hope I’ve learned my lesson, not to trust glossy magazines when there are wolves outside.