Why We Plant What We Do

When the children were small and I was a stay-at-home mom, cooking dinner every night (yes, it was another era), the challenge to provide a variety of meals was daunting. To cook something that my husband would enjoy and the children wouldn’t complain about was a daily battle. We didn’t do fast food or takeout or meals from boxes. I would cook big batches (as my mother and mother-in-law taught me) and freeze dinner-sized portions and then incorporate the rest into leftovers with additions. We ate cheap, but we also ate fresh for the most part. We had turned the backyard into 14 raised beds and had fruit trees in the yard.

But there were times, dark times, when I was tired of my own cooking – sick to death of all the dishes in my repertoire and completely uninspired by every recipe in the no-picture cookbooks I owned.

That is when, in desperation and to the mortification of my children, I would accost strangers in the grocery store and ask what they were doing for their dinner. Some people responded in a surly fashion. Couldn’t be bothered. One memorable older woman thought I was begging for the children in the grocery cart and offered me cash to help me feed my kids. Tempting as that money was, I explained I just wanted inspiration. She was generous with that too. I found those the most enthusiastic about sharing their menus were people I’d meet in the produce department. What is it about fresh vegetables?

Now, we plant what we want to eat ourselves. Because more and more we eat only seasonal, fresh vegetables, each ripening crop is much anticipated. But there comes a time when transplants are set out, seed is sown and sprouting, and there are still some empty beds. What more to plant?

I go back to accosting strangers – at the Farmers Market now – and ask what they would like to eat. The chefs are a great source of inspiration. But best of all are the regular folks who would just like to taste the fresh vegetables and fruit varieties of their memories. That’s how we came to plant Delicata squashes for the first time, and Black Diamond watermelons, and small French carrots. By sharing their yearning for a favored taste, Market customers help us discover new and wonderful treats.

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