Thursday, September 23, 2010


Today, my fruit trees - two lemons, an orange, a Tahitian lime and a Kaffir lime - were ready for their first stripping of the season, and all the girls helped. They all displayed astonishing levels of dexterity, from the tall, strong 7-year-old who twisted off stubborn fruit with a agile flick of her wrist to the fearless monkey-child 5-year-old who shinned up the trees to pluck the high-hanging lemons and tossed them to the waiting feet of the toddler, who laughed with delight and stacked them neatly in the bucket.

Particularly entranced was the youngest; at 19 months, she's too small to remember previous seasons of pulling fruit from stems, squeezing juicy windfalls between her fingers, smelling citrus-scented air all around, piling the bright globes in the bucket, sitting on the bench seat under the large lemon with cookbooks and deciding what we'll make with the output. She adores to be outside anyway; this cold, seemingly endless winter we've endured has hit her hardest of us all, I think. The gathering of the fruit was, for her, a new and wonderful delight.

Enjoying this hour with the girls so much, being so unutterably pleased myself with the prospect of making lemon & lime puddings, Thai-style dishes flavoured with limes, orange cakes, and assorted other goodies, I was once again struck by how good it is - good in every sense of the word - to eat food that you had a hand in nurturing. I feel this whenever we eat eggs from my mother-in-law's fat and spoiled free range chickens, or when I season a dish with herbs from my modest but hopefully expanding herb patch, or when I eat a tomato from the self-seeded and stubbornly productive Roma plant that decided to set up shop in the corner near the compost (I assume it was the result of a discarded tomato at some past juncture, but it is now a happy little tagalong in my garden).

I keep intending - every year, I intend - to build square-foot raised garden beds and make an attempt to grow more. I do not delude myself that it would be necessarily cheaper, at least not initially (my sister in law, an avid vegetable gardener with a huge plot under cultivation, tells me that after about year 3, if you choose good varieties and have good luck, the food savings start to outweigh the garden maintenance costs). I do think it would be so much better for us in other ways, though. In terms of freshness of ingredients (and certainly about their provenance); in terms of learning opportunities about botany, and the chance for the kids to have responsibility for tending sections of the garden; in terms of family time, like we had today, harvesting and weeding out and laughing and talking and being together. I dream of beds of rainbow chard and patches of mint, more tomato plants and zucchini.

Every year, I say, this year. My intentions are real and earnest, but my capacity has been derailed by one thing and the next every year since my second baby's birth, 5 spring seasons ago now. Will this be the year we crash through? I really hope so. I think so. I want more harvests together from our own ground.

Do you grow any food of your own? If you do, do you have any tips for me?

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