Saturday, July 26, 2008
I’m in trouble with these vegetables. It’s only July and I’m already giving them away. Every night we have tomato and green pepper salad and I’ve made my special zucchini spaghetti three times. Going on eight if you count the leftovers.
This is the recipe: Fry zucchini in olive oil and garlic. Add sliced black olives. Pour it over spaghetti and mix it up with garlic salt and fresh parmesan cheese. That’s it.
That meal, though not what one thinks of as a traditional country meal, such as chicken and biscuits, reminds me of being on a farm in the summer. When I was a little girl, my mother’s friend, Alice, took me to her sister’s farm in upstate New York. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Madelyn, the sister, let me do farm things. She gave me a bottle to feed a baby goat. She let me pick out a cookie recipe from her black-and-white composition notebook where she kept them all hand-written inside and let me make a batch myself. (Two pages were stuck together, and so I followed two recipes, unbeknownst to me. Somehow, they still came out delicious. Perhaps it was the dumb luck of a beginner.) Madelyn also sent me out to the garden to pick zucchini and the other sister, Jeannie, made the zucchini spaghetti. They served it out of a big dented aluminum pot to all of us kids and now summer is not summer to me unless I make it.
The problem is, that’s the only thing I know how to make with zucchini and my vegetable drawer is stuffed with them. Plus there are three more big ones waiting to be picked as we speak and no gang of kids to feed it to. Even the tomatoes. A dozen ripen every day. More than we can eat. And there are a hundred green ones waiting their turn. My mother is always wanting me to make fried green tomatoes. I think she got that from the movie of the same name. But why fry a green one when you can eat a red one or fry up some zucchini or eggplant? If gas wasn’t so expensive, I’d take the vegetables to some soup kitchen or homeless shelter but I’m not going to spend seventy-five bucks driving to the city to hand over a bag of vegetables. It’s not like you can make it worth your while and save them all up and bring a truckload of veggies, which is what it looks like I’m going to get when all is said and done. If I had the room to save vegetables, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.
I don’t know who I could give my vegetables to. I don’t see many people on the farm. The UPS guy comes once in a while. The ladies down at the Minute Market when I have to go and get milk. The bank lady. That’s about it. I asked Kurt to bring some to work but being a guy who hates sissy-Mary vegetables like zucchini, and most things green, he said, “Nobody wants that stuff.” The neighbors are no good because they all have their own gardens—big plots of red earth surrounded by wire fence reinforced with various methods to keep the deer out—aluminum pie plates rattling and spinning in the breeze; strips of neon orange tape fluttering and wiggling; scarecrows in worn-out overalls and straw hats with broken brims; electric wire; baby powder. People will try anything to keep the deer out. But they don’t need any of my vegetables even if the deer get through and munch on theirs all night long. I couldn’t shine their shoes as far as gardening goes.
Pearl moved one of her gardens to a different spot this year because the deer were having a hay-day and she wanted to throw them off the track. This was the one that was next to my driveway. I’d asked her what she was doing with it because June was already here and nothing was planted. She said, “Oh, do you want to use it?”
I almost had a heart attack. It’s about an acre big.
“No, no, I just wanted to know what you were going to do with it,” I waved my hand and backed up.
It’s nice to know Pearl has a lot of faith in me. But it is obvious she doesn’t really understand just how much of a real city girl I am. How I recently learned gardening tools are not for tying in a ribbon and hanging on the wall like in Country Living magazine. Or how I just learned how to weed, deadhead, prime the pump, identify a black widow, back the truck up to the loading dock at the feed store without hitting the hitch, that Sevin isn’t a number and gathering wood isn’t romantic.
Still. It appears I have a green thumb. You’d think I have a big garden with all this surplus stuff. You’d think I was using Pearl’s acre next door. The neighbors are suspicious. Truth be told, I have given them some of my vegetables before their own, in their big plots of land with their professionally tilled up dirt and spinning discs like round mirrors keeping the deer out, came in. Effie raised an eyebrow when I handed her a Wal-Mart bag full of tomatoes and zucchinis. “Debi, where are you gettin’ this stuff?”
“Right there,” I turned and pointed to my little garden. It’s only about two feet wide and runs the length of the garage, turns the corner and runs the width. That’s it. One row. Actually, I wasn’t even planning to make it that big. Last year I had a hard enough time managing the tomatoes. But when I saw the pepper plants at the feed store, I thought I should at least get a package. I don’t know what they’re called. It was a container of four. Peppers are eighty-nine cents a pop in Wal-Mart and half the time they’ve got little soft spots on them. So I thought I might as well pick up a package of four and save some money. I got a package of four tomato plants as well. You have to have tomatoes. There is nothing more glorious than a juicy tomato still warm from the sun.
Half the garden is a strawberry patch. It overflows onto the lawn. We planted that last year with a couple of seedlings we bought from the 4-H club for a fundraiser. It has now run amok. I’ve gotten a couple of pints of sweet strawberries out of it and though the strawberry farms in the area have closed for the season, my strawberries are still coming.
I thought I was all set but then Kelly came home from school with some sweet potato plants they started in ag class. So we planted them too. On the last day of school, she stepped off the bus with two more packages of tomato plants. The teacher was unloading everything in the greenhouse. I gave half to Pearl. I should have given her all of them. And then the next time I was in the feed store I thought about zucchini spaghetti up on the farm and so I picked up a package of zucchini plants. That’s how the garden ended up going around the back of the garage.
What do I do with all of this? Last year Pearl got me freezing my tomatoes. I can’t can them because I have a smooth-top stove and you can’t can on those types of stoves because the heat will break the glass. Well, that is neither here or there because I don’t know how to can anyway, plus if I did, I wouldn’t, because it sounds like too much work. So Pearl turned me on to freezing. It’s pretty simple. Just boil the tomatoes, slip the skins off when they’re cool, and put them in Tupperware containers. The problem is, I still have tomatoes in my containers in the freezer from last year.
Even if I could handle Pearl’s acre next door, it is apparent that I don’t need it. I have a green thumb all right. Or just the dumb luck of a beginner.