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Archive for the ‘asparagus’ Category

As I mentioned previously, I was inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barabara Kingsolver, to expand my tiny veggie garden. I didn’t just plant my standard tomatoes, but peas, carrots and broccoli instead. Oh, and asperagus, but I’m not expecting much from that for a while.

Jasper pulled one bunch of asperegus from the ground – I guess he likes them even when they are tiny. I’ve been watching the rest sprout and watering faithfully. Then, when we returned home from the long weekend, I did my garden tour and discovered when I got to my veggie bed – nothing! Oh, I still have those old stand-bys, the tomatoes. But every other shoot has been eaten to the ground. Wait, I exaggerate; one pea plant has survived. That’ll be quite the bounty.

So, like Yogamum, I’ve failed for this year. It is too late to replant, so I’ll have to wait until next year.

At least the raspberry plant we put in a couple years ago is going nuts and has tons of berries. I just hope most of them hold off on ripening until we return.

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I like going on vacation, I really am, but despite the veggie disaster, I wish I could bring my garden with me. It kills me that I am going to miss things flowering, particularly my Shasta daisies. They have been budding now for about a month and I have been anticipating the huge mass of flowers. As this week progressed, I could see that they were aiming to open up just about the day after I leave.

I’ll probably miss the Asiatic lillies too, and I cringe to think of how the weeds are going to take over.

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It would help if the sun would shine for longer than an hour between the rain. At least J’s brother left two of his kids here to amuse mine. Five kids is a lot to feed – none of these kids are picky eaters – but they run off in a pack and there’s always someone to play with. And Jasper loves swimming at the beach, no matter what the weather.

Boo is begging for the laptop to watch something. I think I’ll go play poker with the other┬ákids.

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Did you know that if a dog eats lots of asparagus, he too will experience asparagus pee? J swears so, and he was the one who walked Jasper the morning after that rotten dog ate three-quarters of the plate of asparagus I had prepared for dinner. I was smart enough to place the hamburgers I’d just BBQed (all by myself, yay me) on top of the fridge, but I underestimated the appeal the veggie would have on the dog. Stupid me.

When I walked into the kitchen to see the almost-naked plate of asparagus, I was about to blame J, until I realized that even he would not suck back that many before dinner. And the children were still outside. Sad thing was, no one trusted him to have avoided slobbering on the rest, so Jasper got those for breakfast.

I made up for it today by buying way better asparagus and not giving the dog any (well, he expressed great interest in the raw, snapped off bottom bits, so I did feed him those, but he got none of the good parts). I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and have her to thank for the superior asparagus, although despite the delicious veggies, I’m not sure if reading that book has been a positive force in my life right now.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved it. It was a fascinating read, but I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I just picked it up on a whim because I love Kingsolver and the book was way cheap at Costco. I read the cover – how charming, she and her family decide to live off only what they produce themselves for a year and chronicle the adventure. Well, it was charming. It was hard not to drool as she describes the meals they had. But she sneakily slipped in all kinds of information about how we are going to hell in a hand-basket one more way.

The veggies we buy aren’t just full of pesticides, but bred only for their ability to last until they make the long trip from far away to here. They are mere shadows of the real thing with regards to flavour and have far fewer nutrients than their organic counterparts. The variety of food is disappearing and the best isn’t winning. Oh, she goes on and on and on.

It isn’t like I don’t already know most of what she said. Not only have I read books like Fast Food Nation, but my parents tended a huge veggie patch when I was a kid. They didn’t do it to lessen their footprint on the earth or for organic food. They did it because it was cheaper and tastier. I didn’t appreciate some of their choices. I hated the beets and chard and I think I didn’t like the green beans back then either. But I loved the peas, both snow and snap. And the carrots were probably my favourite. We’d pull them from the ground, give them a good wipe on our shorts and eat them without even washing. No wait, maybe the tomatoes were my favourite. There is nothing like the taste of a fresh, lightly-salted tomato sliced on toast for breakfast. And lunch. And a snack.

As soon as I had a spot of land to call my own, I began growing tomatoes. In my first house, I went for a whole wee garden, which was colossal flop. It was a great deal of hard work for about 4 carrots, thanks to the rainiest summer on record and a back yard that just did not have enough sun to pull it off.

When I moved to my current house, I was very pregnant with Boo and had been a bit scared off by my previous failures. I decided to concentrate on the flower garden, which is much easier. But I couldn’t completely let it go. I’ve always grown tomatoes and my kids love to keep watch for the first cherry tomatoes of the season. The first year, I over-estimated how many we needed and we were awash with the things. I couldn’t pay the kids to eat them by the end. But they still get excited when it comes time to plant the tomatoes in spring.

I also have container herbs and made an unsuccessful attempt at cucumbers. I don’t need to repeat the cucumber experiment because our next-door neighbour always over does it on those and passes them on. He’s an old, very over-weight, heavy smoker with a deep gravelly voice, with wild hair and permanent stubble. It is funny to see him beckon my children with a smokey, “Hey kids. Come ‘ere. I got something for you.” And he starts handing out cucumbers of all sorts. Not what you’d expect.

My mother’s good for zucchini – lots of it.

My point, as long-winded as it is, is that my kids and I know the difference between the anemic flavourless tomatoes, cucumbers and apples you can by at the grocery store. But I’d kind of put it out of my head that all that other stuff – the asparagus, the lettuce, the broccoli – is also a pale imitation, only I don’t know what the real thing is supposed to taste like.

Kingsolver tells of a friend who had no idea that a potato is the root of a plant, her point being that urban North Americans are so divorced from the source of their food that they have no idea what it is before it hits the supermarket shelves. My kids aren’t that bad. They know what it is like to put a tiny seed in the ground and harvest a big pumpkin 4 months later (I forgot to mention we do also grow a pumpkin plant each year.) We also are lucky enough to have friends with a small farm, so they’ve gotten to go potato hunting (it’s exciting, like a treasure hunt) and pull their lunch from the ground, bring it inside and prepare it.

But on a regular basis, we eat shit. I’m busy and tired and usually don’t make the effort to shop beyond the supermarket. But Kingsolver and her stupid book gave me a little kick in the head and now I can’t do that any more. I’m not going to go nuts, but we are planting carrots as well as the tomatoes this year (and I’ve put in the asparagus, but that’ll still take a few years before we can eat it). And I’m mulling over where to move some of my flowers to start a decent little veggie garden for next year. This time I do have the sunshine I need. I just have to figure out how to keep Jasper out or we won’t get to eat a thing.

And I found out where the closest farmer’s market is. It isn’t very far. Still feeling like crap, I dragged myself out in the drizzle to see what they had. I brought Maya, who was very impressed. She wanted it all. There weren’t a lot of veggies yet, but I got local greenhouse tomatoes that were better than anything in a grocery store and the asparagus Jasper didn’t get to eat. Plus some lovely homemade bread and local honey. Maya bought fudge, of course.

My life has just gotten more complicated thanks to Kingsolver. But it was the best asparagus I’ve tasted in years.

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