Friday, February 24, 2012

weeds in the garden

I was almost going to talk about the weather. And how the unexpected warmth we're having makes me feel so guilty. A guilty pleasure to be so warm and dry in February.

I was almost going to talk about my unfinished knitting projects and how pointless warm wool shawls seem when the skies are clear blue and the breeze is so calming.

But, when I looked out over the rail of our deck, scanning our vegetable garden the other day, I decided I wanted to talk about weeds.

The garden is in complete disarray. A jungle. Thistles and grass and who-knows-what else. You can't even see the gopher piles for the weeds that have accumulated. It looks like such a huge job to address that, and frankly, I've avoided it completely for months.

Last summer our garden became a war zone. Us against the deer. The deer won. We ultimately gave up, 45 tomato plants down. Sometimes it's easier to admit defeat and shop at the farmers market than it is to feed the local deer population.

In some ways I enjoyed the farmers market more. The selection, the interactions with the farmers. The great coffee. Holding my husband's hand as we stroll the lanes. The bounty we bring home each time we go. I really love the summer farmers market. And it's definitely less back-breaking.

I've avoided dealing with our garden since July. But, this morning I decided it was time to pick some arugula for our salad. Arugula is a weed. I will admit I did pay for the arugula seeds at one point in the past, but now it is a weed just like the thistle plants that cover the beds and walkways. The difference is that I love to eat arugula and it doesn't hurt to touch it. You can even eat the flowers, or pick them and put them in an old vase on the counter. Arugula's spicy-peppery-woodsy taste is perfect with lemon and olive oil, maybe a little anchovy and garlic, too. Tastes like Italy to me.

I lived in Florence back in 1985-86 (with my mom and brother) and had an Italian boyfriend. His mama kept a little spade in his glove compartment so that if he was driving her around the countryside and she happened to see some delectable greens on the side of the road, she could easily pick them for their dinner.

"Ah, Mario! Ferma la macchina! Vedo la rucola laggiu`!" "Ah, Mario! Stop the car! I see some arugula over there!" (I'll admit Google Translate helped me with that. My Italian was probably never quite so good.)

My mom and I had never eaten such tasty greens before. The stuff we now refer to as "yuppy chow," the mixed baby greens we can get at just about any market, was unheard of in the States and we'd never had such spicy lettuce as arugula. I used to laugh at the bowl of weeds we were enjoying every night at dinner.

But in my garden this morning, as I braved the jungle of spikes and spiderwebs, I was pretty satisfied to gather something as nourishing as weeds in my basket. I picked some borage flowers too. They're the most beautiful periwinkle blue color, they have a light sweet-nutty flavor and, yes, borage is a weed as well. It's rampant in my garden. And I found a little rosemary hiding in a couple of old pots. It never even got planted properly, but it's surviving, none the less.

I was thinking about waxing rhapsodic about the Weeds we encounter in Life, the Weeds in My Life. How lovely it is to find the beauty in something as common as a lowly weed. One day, perhaps.

But for today I will leave it at arugula and borage and go whip up some lemon-garlic dressing.