A few weeks ago I was out watering the front garden. A woman parked her maroon sedan in front of my house. As she got out, pert brown hair floating in the air, she said to me “your garden makes me smile. I like to watch it grow.” We talked some more and she nodded to my lettuce and said “you must have been busy planting last weekend.” I laughed and said “oh no that was planted weeks ago, I’ve been waiting and waiting for it.”
After our exchange, I thought for several hours about how curious it was that she and I looked at the same patch of lettuce and saw entirely different things. She thought I had gone down to the nursery, bought some lettuce and popped 4 inch lettuce in the ground. When I looked at the lettuce I saw a more laborious story– a cold day of planting in February, weeks of tucking the seeds in each night under a tattered blanket of frost cloth, and consistent watering to counteract the hair dryer effect of NM’s late winter winds. Like many spring crops, the lettuce came up rather quickly but then grew slowly- waiting, it seemed, for better conditions. Spring crops are skeptical old men at the end of the bar- with their tattered wool jackets and trusty skull caps. They don’t exactly jump up and greet each day, instead they take a good look up at the sky and make a calculated decision, “should I get off my stool?” Spring plants make this sort of judgement everyday–taking a risk to shoot up on a balmy day might mean they are sorely shivering the next cold night. This spring my plants came up, took a look around and decided to hang out at about 2 inches tall…. for months.
Everyday I’d go out in the morning and there they sat, just about the same as the day before. My impatience would crawl up and down my spine and settle in my tongue. My encouraging cooings became edged with desperation “come on, it is a beautiful day, might you grow just a little bit?” The lettuce and cilantro took pity on me and started to grow steadily- providing leaves for salads by late April. But everyone else- chard, kale, peas, turnips, beets, mustard greens, potatoes, green beans, leeks–sat at the end of the bar, flashed small bits of frost burned sweater at me and said “no, ma’am.”
And then it happened. By some magical message that coursed through the entire yard everything started growing rapidly, all at once. I’m not sure if it is enough warm nights in a row, a certain swing between day and night temperatures or a piece of information humans have long lost touch with but a time comes in spring where everyone, from the cucumber in the veggie garden to the flax in the meadow, calls out —- “this is it…… GROW!”
That was this past weekend. I had been out of town, for a couple of days, but the minute I came up the driveway I could see it- the lettuce was 6 inches tall, the peas had grown by a third and were blooming, the potatoes were peeking out of their trenches, the mustard and beets greens were suddenly enough for many meals, the cucumbers were a sturdy inch tall and tomato volunteers carpeted the garden beds. “Its’ here,” my heart lightened and my impatience was banished to my toes. I rushed around the yard to see who else had heard the message. The fig was displaying her first tiny curled up leaf, the pomegranate had four springs growing from the base, the giant poppy was about to throw off her cap, and the datura were poking out of the mulch. And best of all, the two foot tall apricot tree that we had transplanted in February, had sprouted leaves in March (which were all burned off by a frost in April) had an entirely new sprout –right from the base. The bar doors were thrown open and the old men were holding arms and doing a jig.
The kind woman on the street will think I have made quite the run to the plant store.
Lettuce- second planting
Lettuce and dandelion greens
Poppy sheds her hat
The front yard is coming along…
Edible celebrates New Mexico's food culture, season by season. We believe that knowing where our food comes from is a powerful thing. With our high-quality, aesthetically pleasing and informative publication, we inspire readers to support and celebrate the growers, producers, chefs, beverage and food artisans, and other food professionals in our community.