You know how they say no child is anything but beautiful the first time he or she is handed to their mother? It’s all about perspective, about the hard work that brought that child into the world – it bonds you to them, drives you close.
I am starting to see what they mean, but I am not quite so invested: namely, I am realizing that my garden produces ugly strawberries. They are whorled and have lumps and bumps; they fold in on themselves and get dirt on them and there are occasionally ants to brush off. But the fact remains: we’ve had 7 strawberries and a whole pile ripening up as we speak. I am so excited to be growing my own (tiny) quantity of food.
I am accustomed to the same act that so many people go through at the grocery store every week: search the small baskets of uniform strawberries for the one that holds only perfect fruit, no fuzziness or mushiness or strange shapes. If I grew strawberries like that on my first try, I’d be thrilled, but I’m realizing a different virtue lately, namely, loving what I do have. The ugly strawberries, which I set beside breakfast for Husband and I to try, are deeply sweet, warm from the time outside, and with the characteristic tartness that strawberries do so well without hinging into a more stringent flavor.
I feel the same way about our greens, which have now garnished a delicious sandwich I made and topped a salad for Husband, though I have to say – they are quite pretty. We’ve been getting bucketloads of rain, so spinach is just plumping up constantly as we speak. They were tangy and crisp and just full of deep iron-y flavors, no bright white iceberg leaves with the flavor of water.
I know that gardening isn’t for everyone, or even available to everyone, but I also hope that no one ditches it because they have ugly strawberries their first year. The first fruits are messy sometimes, but we grow when we encounter and care about imperfect things.
I am saving up strawberries now, 3 at a time as I pick them in the mornings – I drop them right into a tupperware in the freezer and will be making me a strawberry rhubarb pie when I have enough and can get my hands on fresh rhubarb. I will pick greens again before Husband and I leave for a camping trip this week. I will keep doing this thing, the growing thing, and I will be so thrilled that I have a crop of anything that ugliness, spots, or dirt will not dim my enthusiasm for the whole growing-your-own-food hobby.