It's that time of the year again when I wish I had a garden. Little pots on a fire escape give me regular sprigs of thyme and shiso and, if I'm feeling ambitious, I might harvest handfuls of Sweet 100s. It's nothing, however, like watching tiny pea shoots unfurl into astonishing vines or digging up a stash of potatoes from beneath a dried-up stem.
I actually don't like dirt (or, as my gardener friend keeps correcting me..."soil"), and I'm not one of those people who will ever trade my life in the City for a quiet, hard-won existence among fields. Yet, it's impossible to forget the landscape of my childhood. My mom tries to assauge my asphalt fever with photos from her own garden, where she manages to transform a Midwestern blink of a growing season into a year of food for her family.
In my fridge right now: my mom's apple butter, dill pickles and gooseberry jelly.
Her plot, which measures roughly 75 yards long and 25 yards wide, is no Victory Garden. Martha Stewart would immediately break out in hives if she ever saw my mother's casual approach to organizing her plants. The fence that fails to keep out the rabbits looks like it'll fall over with the next gust, and her compost pile would qualify as a public menace anywhere else. She stakes her plants with odd bits of lumber, letting rusty nails add a bit of thrill to picking tomatoes. She leaves the weeds in peace.
A helpful note on the back of the photo for her city-slicker daughter: "tomatoes in center (8 ft tall), on the right bitter melon (kho qua) on the left hot & green pepper and pumpkin (only one)."