I think I have always grown something to eat whether it was an avocado seed in a glass jam jar, lettuce along a strip of my mother’s garden, or okra climbing up a trellis in a big clay pot on my apartment balcony in Atlanta. I’ve always had a curiosity about vegetables that extends beyond all other ingredients.
Farmer’s markets beckon me to come out and shop among the tomatoes and lettuces. The beauty of garden lettuce reminds me of the cottage garden roses I grew on our land in North Carolina. I like to take time to browse the assorted tomatoes in hues of scarlet, orange, yellow and green. But more than that I like to grow heirloom tomatoes, watching green shoots poke through the soil, and looking after them like precious children, watering and weeding and getting the rich, dark soil of the good earth under my finger nails. It’s an experience that awakens the senses with a pull back to what is basic and real.
The beauty of this vegetable patch is loaded with even greater sensual pleasure once I reach the kitchen. I love a summer supper of sweet and creamy squash casserole, watermelon and feta salad over red leaf lettuce, crisp cucumber refrigerator pickles, a sauté of green beans with roasted red peppers, and best of all a generous plate of sliced sun-ripened garden fresh tomatoes. None of this is difficult, time-consuming, or expensive and the benefits of a largely plant based diet go beyond taste.
When you peak into my stockpots on the stove or lift the lid of my casseroles, it’s the veggies that play the starring role. Our food production in this country has become so filled with pesticides, ways of extending shelf life, packaging and marketing, that I yearn for something simpler and more satisfying.