So my main garden goal this year was to eliminate “vegetables of obligation” – those things that I have to nag myself to harvest, clean, and eat. I stripped down my plant list to things that meet one or more of these criteria:
- I can “plant it and forget it” until harvest time – then shovel it directly into the root cellar or (at most) do a couple big preservation marathons and have a winter’s supply. Potatoes, dry beans, sweet potatoes, winter squash, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, and garlic all meet this criteria.
- I love it so much, you can’t keep me out of the garden and gnawing it down to a stub. Kale, snow peas, and green beans fall into this category.
- Misc, including “It’s hard to find at the market,” (rutabagas) “It’s easy to grow for Food Gatherers” (turnips) and “Dammit I will learn how to grow this one of these days!” (carrots)
I’m not growing any vegetables I think I should grow but don’t actually eat (like beets) and, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not growing tomatoes because I wanted to try obtaining them in bulk on one or two days I’ve planned for preserving, instead of being a slave to the nightshades all summer. (Unlike most people, I can take or leave fresh tomatoes. Mostly I like them in salsa.)
This is working out perfectly as planned. Except for an unexpected glut of green beans due to a succession-planting snafu crossed with a weekend out of town, the garden has not been demanding “Pick me! Eat this! Don’t waste me!” The potatoes and squash are chugging along and should provide a nice harvest. (I’m robbing a few early potatoes now, but planning to leave the rest in the ground until the root cellar cools down.) I have not sworn at one single vegetable or threatened to compost any plants simply because they are threatening to drown me in produce.
And you know what? I ponder my current garden and think I’m not really growing anything. I actually said to myself the other day “there’s nothing to eat out there,” the way that stereotypical looks at her packed closet and says “I don’t have a thing to wear!” I guess this is because I’m only actively harvesting green beans, kale, and some early potatoes right now. Oh, and sneaking the baby pink banana squash when the urge takes me. That just doesn’t seem like much fresh garden produce.
Or maybe I’ve defined “normal” or “enough” as the amount I can just barely keep up with? Wow, a therapist would have a field day with that. Because of course, I do that with my job, too. (Does that restless shuffling I hear mean that you all do that, too?)
Here’s the really weird part: I don’t actually know that I even want those other vegetables. Yes, I am sad there aren’t any cucumbers this year, because I’ve learned my gramma has a fondness for my lactofermented pickles, and I wanted to make her several varieties for Christmas. Buying them is expensive, but worth it for a gift, so no worries there. I will be buying sweet corn soon, but I never grow that, anyway. Though I like them, I just didn’t cook beets and parsnips last year – I composted more than I care to admit. I mostly hate summer squash, peppers make me burp, and fresh tomatoes are fine but not thrilling. When I think I should take advantage of the summer’s variety of produce, what do I actually buy? Maybe a few cherries. Mostly, I don’t even go to the market because nothing is tempting enough to actually buy it.
So if I’m not growing vegetables I don’t want, and have more time on my hands, why does my garden feel so empty right now?