OK, I love food. I like reading about it. I like looking at it. I like going to farms. I like photographing food and people who dig and harvest. Colorful produce set against the color of dirt, green stalks, and farmers is sexy. I’ve photographed farms across the United States and in Mexico. For many years, both for newspapers and national television, I was an agricultural reporter.
And now I love growing food.
This spring, I started a garden for the first time in, oh, twenty-some years. I watch over my two little raised garden beds several times a day, and give them whatever they want.
Within these 32 square feet or so, I learn something new about plants almost every day. I have a new relationship with food in that way I couldn’t replicate by reading and eating and talking about food. I’m having a garden adventure.
Did you know that red, orange, and yellow peppers start out as green? Of course you did. But I’d completely forgotten, if I ever did know that. We’re used to tomatoes that start out green, then turn red. But it hadn’t occurred to me that peppers do that, too. Because, you see, yellow squash begins life as yellow. Life in a garden isn’t simple if you’ve never grown your own food before.
So, I’ve planted a ton of tomatoes, some yellow squash, Japanese cucumbers, red and orange peppers, and a basil plant that’s feeding the neighborhood. I’ve learned when to pick each one. Sometimes I learn from the vendors at my local farmer’s market. And sometimes I just figure it out on my own. For instance, the Japanese cucumbers are beautiful, but if you reach for them too soon, they’re rough and prickly – even painful – to touch. Those white prickles are the seeds. When they turn dark, they’ll fall off when you reach for them, and you can brush off the others on the way to the kitchen. Once you get the prickles off, you can wash and eat with the skin on!