Monday, June 29, 2009

A Garden of Memories

Armenian Cucumber next to apple, June 29, 2009, 7:30 a.m.
This morning while watering the garden, I saw something glistening beneath the leaves of the sprawling cucumber vines, which are not trellised. After I was done watering the garden, I went around to the various beds to harvest ripe tomatoes, peppers, okra and herbs. When I got to the cucumber vines and dug below the tangle of vegetation, I pulled up a behemoth Armenian cucumber, which is pictured above (21-inches long and four and a quarter pounds).

That cucumber reminded me of my mother's garden.

Growing up, my mother always had a small, but very productive, vegetable garden in the backyard. At the time, I didn't realize it wasn't a hobby.

There were seven kids in my family and keeping us in groceries on the modest income my father brought home as a warehouse supervisor was a challenge--but one my mother met with grit, determination and compost.

On the kitchen counter next to the sink was a compost bowl, but I don't think that's what she called it. My mother insisted that all scraps from cooking or from our plates (not that there were many of those), should be diverted from the trash and instead go into that bowl. Each morning, she would go to the back of the yard and actually bury these bits in the soil around the plants.

She cultivated a raised bed garden that was less than fifty square feet, but the bounty that came from it was phenomenal. And large. Especially the zucchini. The zucchini that came from my mother's garden were as big as full-term newborn babies. They were often twenty inches long and about six to eight inches in diameter--and heavy. She would cut them into thick disks, dip them into batter and quickly fry them. With salt and pepper, they were delicious. Or she would cut them into chunks and add them to other dishes. To me, that's what a zucchini was supposed to look like.

Imagine my surprise when I began my life as an adult and went to the grocery store the first time and discovered zucchini the size of bread sticks. At first I felt ripped off, but later learned that they are "best" harvested at a more diminutive size than the zucchini of my youth.

I've grown a lot of zucchini since becoming a vegetable gardener, and have usually harvested them when they were "just right." Every now and again I have missed one or two, and they have grown large, but never as large as what came from my mother's garden.

Yet, today's harvest of that amazing cucumber brought me back to my childhood and my mother's garden. While we never had much in the way of material possessions, my mother made certain that we always ate well. And that meant eating from the garden.


mistypoe said...

Good Lord! That thing looks magical. Wow, it's hard to believe it's real. :-)

justheather said...

That's a biggie;) And yes our family still never goes hungry!!