Time to stop and eat the flowers

Eating food fresh from the garden is a wonderful treat. It’s not just that the food tastes better when you grow it yourself–although it’s true–it’s the fact that the food is fresher than anything you will ever find in a store.

The first thing we ate out of our garden this year was bok choy. I’ve never grown it before, but this winter we discovered that the kids love to eat it. So when I saw started plants at the nursery this spring I leapt at the chance to try my hand at raisng it in the garden. And, since my daughter Emily likes everything that comes in small packages, the ‘toy choy’ variety was perfect. I planted it in a triangle pattern in the front bed and I could see it looking green and perky when I looked out of my bedroom window.

It was only a few weeks later that it started to show signs of flowering–not good! I knew that many early spring plants that like cool weather react that way to warm temperatures, making them bitter and tough. So the kids and I harvested it all at once and cooked it for dinner. As far as I’m concerned, anything sauteed with butter and garlic is delicious, but our home-grown bok choy was yummier than I thought it would be. It was only a few hours from garden to table, and it doesn’t get fresher than that.

Oh wait–yes it does! I had K. over for lunch last week, and it was an overcast day with a few showers. About an hour before she arrived, I took a pair of scissors and a colander, and went out into the front yard. The lettuce heads were only just beginning to fatten up, but I managed to find some nice-sized leaves on the outside of each plant. I picked some boston, buttercrunch, and red leaf lettuce for colour.

To make it even more decadent, I picked a few pansies, too. I am growing them in pots on the front steps, and with extra water and regular deadheading they are still madly blooming despite the warm June weather. The blues, yellows and oranges looked absolutely gorgeous.

On the way into the house, I stopped to snip some chives, thyme and parsley to add to the salad dressing, too. Just a simple oil and vinegar dressing takes on a whole new taste with those herbs chopped up fine and whisked into the bowl.

I was probably only outside for a few minutes–ten, maybe?–and had just been back in the house long enough to toss the salad together when the doorbell rang. Perfect timing! That afternoon, the salad went from garden to table in under an hour. It was sweet and crisp and looked pretty on the plate. And I thought THAT must be as fresh as it gets…

…until this morning, when I was sending the kids off to the bus stop. We were having a quick look at the front yard veggies before our goodbye kisses when they kids started squealing–the peas! The peas! There are big pods of peas! So of course we all had to try them, right there, right after breakfast, without even washing them. We were a loud chorus of “mmmm!”s right up until we saw the bus coming and the kids had to hurry across the street. That produce was so fresh it bypassed the plate and went straight from garden to mouth!

Produce from the grocery store just doesn’t compare to the lettuce, herbs, peas and flowers that  I am snipping myself these days. It is far sweeter, greener, and more delicious.

But I have to confess that’s not the only reason I love the whole grow-your-own thing. You know how you buy those boxes or bags or bunches of romaine or bib or iceberg lettuce at the grocery store? And you bring them home and tell yourself you are going to have a salad every single day this week? Then you have salad on Monday but on Tuesday you have a meeting and you aren’t home and your family forgets to make any. And then on Wednesday there is a party so not everyone is home for dinner and it turns out you only need a small salad. On Thursday you forget about the salad altogether. And by Friday the bag/box/bunch is nothing but a sad, soggy mess. You know how that happens?

That never happens to me these days. Everything stays crisp and sweet until the very minute that I am ready to eat it. In fact, when I am out in the garden pulling a few weeds or watering a few plants, I can have a snack whenever I want it. I can stop and smell the roses and eat a few pansies while I’m at it.

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