So, while, gardening can bring all sorts of life lessons, it also brings more practical lessons. I’ve learned cold hard truths about some vegetables that I decided to confront head on.
To start, Pumpkin, you are a pain the ass. You take up all sorts of room, going rogue all over the place. I keep having to turn whatever paltry pumpkins pop up so they don’t get that weird flat side that ends up all mealy and nasty. Furthermore, let’s face it, no one is really that interested in you beyond a few weeks in the fall, and that’s basically for decoration. Even if I do raise one of you to maturity, Pumpkin, you are way too much trouble to cook. I’m done with you. You are officially replaced by fake pumpkins for decoration.
Green Pepper, what is it with you? I planted you and your hipster sister, Purple Pepper right next to each other and you both only coughed up a few tiny peppers with oddly thick skin. Cute, but hardly worth the effort. You are done. Conversely, Banana Pepper and Hot Hungarian Wax Pepper? Slow. Down. Pump the breaks already. I’m an Irish gal; I barely know what to do with you. Stop being so pushy, flooding my kitchen with product. And, by the way, how about making it clear which one of you is which? When you get thrown into a basket together, it’s like Russian roulette; it could be an yummy hot/sweet experience, or a blow your doors off, cartoon “ah-OOO-ga” moment. I mean, Banana and Hungarian Wax ... you’re in, but only one plant each. I can’t deal with more than that. You’re too aggressive.
Broccoli and Cauliflower, you are like the Patti Dukes of the garden. Broccoli, you are Patti, all down home and basic. And then there’s you, Cauliflower, the darling of the gluten free set, all trendy and au currant. But …. Broccoli, I’ve always been a fan because you resemble little trees, you’re versatile as a side dish and in salads (especially delicious with bacon, but what isn’t). But to grow you in a garden is a huge bummer. I take my eye off you for a couple of weeks and you get all spindly and leggy … and why so bitter? You're out. Cauliflower, I’m happy for your recent popularity, I really am. You remind me of that awkward boy in grade school that no one really noticed until after he went through puberty and turned into a popular track star hotty. I mean, go you. But again, to grow you in a garden is a study in futility. You’re passive aggressive, you won't grow and don’t seem to want to be there. I don’t have time for you, Cauliflower. I’ll buy you already riced from the grocery store and enjoy you as a gluten free crust on my pizza, but you’re evicted from my garden.
Speaking of vegetable relatives, Zucchini and your cousin Summer Squash, we need to talk. Zucchini, I like you in moderation. If I grow too much of you, which I always do, I can either give you away or make zucchini bread out of you. A vegetable bread? That’s so great! Thank you for being adaptable. You're in, but stay in the slow lane. But Summer Squash? Listen … (sigh) … nobody likes you that much. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I always grow too much of you and I literally cannot give you away. You’re kind of boring, your texture is a little weird and sometimes … sorry … you get these gross knobs all over your skin that are just unappetizing. Ugh. Ok, ok … I’ll keep one plant each of the Zucchini and Summer Squash.. But don’t go all Banana Pepper on me and take over my kitchen. I mean, I can’t make Summer Squash bread.
Now, Eggplant … you are full of surprises. I grew up in an Irish household, so I really didn’t know much about you (or any fresh vegetables, to be honest). When I first planted you, you caught my attention: so pretty, so aubergine. But your spongy texture quite frankly grossed me out … until I discovered your secret. When I salt you and let you sit for a while, all that moisture comes out and you are ready to party. I’ve found so many fun summer recipes for you! I can brush you with herbed olive oil and grill you, or pan fry you or bake you. When I stack you with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella … OMG. You are amazing! A tastegazme. Really, I’m a fan. Eggplant, you can stay.
Ok, Kale, I planted you with trepidation. I mean, you’re so trendy and, let’s face it, a little pretentious. It is early in the season, but already I can tell … Kale, I think I like you. You are a giver. I leave you alone and cut you as needed. Next time I turn around, you’re back whole hog. I cut you again, and there you are again. You’re like the Everlasting Gobstopper of vegetables. From what I hear you keep giving into late fall, so I’m exploring recipes. If all else fails I can freeze you and use you in smoothies. Anyway, you are a happy surprise. Kale, welcome to the garden.
Speaking of surprises … Garlic, you saucy minx. You are a bulb that we eat, which is so cool. You are so unselfish and giving, you play well with others, you make others better. Truly, you are great. But who knew you had another little gift … Scapes!? After my husband, Mr. Green Jeans, first planted you, I was puttering around in the garden in late spring and noticed that you had grown green, beautiful, curly tendrils, like a little Irish toddler. I thought to myself, “surely these must be edible.” A quick Google search revealed that those shoots are called “scapes,”are only briefly available in the spring and are much coveted. So, I lopped off those scapes, cooked them up and … wow! Garlicky, oniony, grassy. Really yummy and different. Garlic, you’re in.
Which brings us to Tomato. Oh, Tomato, I remember when I didn’t like you as a child, and that’s when you actually tasted like tomatoes. My mother would eat a tomato like an apple, salting each bite as she went. I could barely look at her, it made me so queasy. Now, I’m a grown ass adult and I like you, Tomato. And that was before trying you right out of the garden. Holy cow, it has been life changing, especially when I learned how to make tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, garlic (love you!) and fresh basil. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten anything so transformative. It’s like sunshine in your mouth. It’s like joy on a plate: so fresh and bright and healthy. This Irish gal is forever changed. Tomato, I’m all in. I’m planting you every year in many different varieties. I know that some of you will rot on the vine if I don’t get to you, but it’s ok, because you are fun to throw over the fence and I enjoy hearing you splat on the grass. In fact, I think I’ll save my rotten tomatoes to hurl at the next annoying politician.
I’m going to need more tomatoes.