Failure to do chores? That’s 2 rows of green beans to pick. Sassing? Better get out the hoe and start hoeing. Blisters and sunburn and sore muscles were the comeuppance meted out to mischievous boys at our house.
My time in the garden wasn’t always as a result of misbehavior. I remember going out to pick tomatoes and Mom tucking the salt shaker and a knife into her apron pocket. We’d pluck huge, beautiful beefsteaks from the vine and Mom would peel back the skin from the top with the knife and sprinkle it with salt. We’d eat’ em like gigantic juicy apples, warmed by the summer sun.
When picking peas, two thirds went into the bucket, the remainder into our mouths. Grandma would pull green onions from the ground, slice the root end off and pull off the outer layer before biting into one. But, of course, 10-year old boys want no part of raw onions.
Sometimes we’d even nibble on raw ears of corn, sweet as sugar. And if you’ve ever had sweet corn, freshly picked and thrust almost immediately in boiling water for a scant three minutes, than you’ve tasted heaven. Because the sugars in sweet corn start turning to starch the moment it’s picked, the shorter the time between picking and cooking, the more fantastic the treat.
I’m a suburbanite now, no longer with a 4-acre garden to plant and hoe and harvest. We make do with a few raised beds and a few extra vegetables tucked in among the flowers.
But we still want our kids to know what a tomato, fresh from the garden, tastes like. And asparagus. And sugar snap peas, which are our daughter’s favorite. If you want to taste any sugar snap peas from the few plants at our house, you’ll have to race her to them. Rare is the pea that survives the trip from the garden to the kitchen when she’s around.
We’re thankful we get to share this experience with our kids. And perhaps instill a little wisdom and the desire to be good caretakers of this big ol’ spinning rock we all share. At the very least we’ll eat well.
Do you have nostalgic connections to your garden?