That is a big dream. When we surveyed our tomatoes after rationing the water in the rain barrels for weeks and then standing on the porch watch a deluge for another few weeks, we were quiet. My eight-year old looked at her Romas (which may be the saving grace of the tomato patch), my five-year old surveyed his yellow tomatoes (he prefers less acid, thank-you-very-much) with a serious eye, the baby sniffed a Cherokee Purple, then sunk his teeth in without even picking it. We sighed. It was the most unblemished, ripest tomato we had going. Then the five-year old laughed at his little brother, “It’s good, isn’t it? That’s the best. Right from the garden.” His sister chimed in, “At least someone ate it. Went right to the belly. Just like our peas.”
I grinned. Our tomatoes are alright. We’ve clipped some diseased leaves – oh, o.k. more like branches, and they are not going to bear the glorious harvest of our dreams. But did we have peas! This year we ate peas until, well, we could always eat more peas. We froze peas. That was my goal, even the smallest amount . We never, ever have enough peas. The few that grew were gobbled by children well before they could make it to the house. We also have onions! Never grew them before. They are drying in bunches on the side porch, next to the garlic – enough for all year and cloves to plant this fall. (Side note: I love garlic – my husband likes garlic when it is hidden in and not part of the title of the dish. If you have this conflict in your house, do not cure your garlic on the porch next to your bedroom window. Waking up and trying to identify the smell at 2 a.m. is not good public relations for garlic.)
So in a better mood, the kids and I went on to survey the rest of the garden. We pulled some spent beans and raked to get ready for some beet planting tomorrow. With that to look forward to, we turned to the grim realty of our potatoes. We are also new to potatoes. Something had not gone right. The five-year old was in charge of pulling diseased parts and putting them in a burn pile. By the beginning of July he had his work cut out for him. I figured they were done for, but he liked it. I hoped he wouldn’t be too disappointed if there was nothing to harvest – or worse, mush. While the kiddos chased a toad, I dug with the tater fork. Nothing. Little left. Potatoes! Smooth-skinned, round, good-sized potatoes. I dug a little row then called the kids. This was not a brag-worthy harvest amount, but the excitement of digging food out of the ground cannot be overstated. This was real joy. Up from the Earth – food!
Children will gladly run out to the garden for dill for their potato salad.
We ate our first kholrabi last night. It got great reviews from the parents and tolerable reviews from kids. We added beans and cukes to our salad of kale (which keeps throughout the summer for some reason in our garden.) Meat has taken a side dish place on our plates this summer. So, as I sigh about our ho-hum tomatoes, my children and my plate remind me that a garden is more than tomatoes and even, more than food.
P.S. I haven’t harvested many peppers, either. The toddler and 5-year old hunt for them and eat them right there in the garden. I will put my dreams of stuffed peppers on hold, then, until the children are eight and can wait until supper. The toad is doing well. We gave him a couple of upturned pots, and he is a regular among the winter squash.