Growing parsnips is a one-year project - sow the seeds in early spring, heavily straw-mulch the green shoots when they emerge, leave them alone over the winter, and dig them out the next spring. Exposing the plants to winter cold is what sweetens the 'snips and gives them their distinctive flavor. And there's nothing quite like freshly-dug parsnips roasted, pureed into a soup, or sauteed in some olive oil.
At first I thought I was in for bad parsnip news when I read in "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" that parsnips should be harvested before the green tops re-emerge in the spring. My greens were lush and about 8 inches tall, so I thought the veg could be mushy and icky when I dug them today.
But it appears I may have dodged that bullet, as I loosened the soil and revealed (well, tugged frantically to reveal) these other-worldly beauties:
It's a damp, mild day today, so the soil was yielding. I did nick a few of the parsnips with my shovel, so that's a "note to self" for next year--probably better to use a pitchfork and give myself wider digging berth. But now, all I have left to do is ponder what to do with these amazing specimens. Ideas?
Friends, I can't tell you how happy I am to be writing again in this space. Happy, but overwhelmed, both with all that's happened since my last post back in August, and with the complete transformation my life has taken since last year at this very time.
You see, the thing is, Rob and I went through a four-year battle with infertility. I have never written publicly about our struggle before, for reasons including wanting to avoid unwanted advice to wanting to keep infertility from infiltrating every part of my life to, later, a fear of alienating readers who may still be in the infertility trenches (I'm all too aware how reading, "We're pregnant!" can be tragic, even if the news pertains to a stranger.) Even now I'm clutching to find the right words to sum up the shattering, bottomless experience of tests, medications, procedures, disappointments, disappointments, and disappointments.
Except...exactly one year ago, I finally got to see two lines on the stick. And deep in the winter of 2010, our Ben was born.
Nothing I can write about infertility sounds right to me - everything I peck out seems either overwrought, insufficient, or too contained to capture the journey, especially in retrospect. So I'm not going to try to pontificate on the experience or dwell on the details. But I do want to finally whisper "thank you" to the group of bloggers (especially her, her, her, and her) whose writing has sustained me (correction: is sustaining me) in ways they'll never know. It takes courage and energy to write through such a process as infertility (and pregnancy after infertility...and parenting after infertility). These women have both in spades.
So. What does all of this have to do with my garden?
The "fertility" metaphor was powerful and all-consuming to me, to the point of imbuing my time in the soil with deep meaning....and all but shutting down my garden writing. I was obsessed with all things that grow - or don't. But the "why" of it all felt so huge, it ultimately choked out my ability to articulate any insights or feelings about it.
Later, once I actually became pregnant, I found myself so superstitious, so haunted by the spectre and possibility of loss, that my "pregnancy journal" was written on pages torn out of a yellow pad, one by one, so as to avoid having to face words written lovingly and excitedly in a fresh, expectant book.
And, I didn't even keep a garden journal last year, the first season in our lovely new backyard, because if things didn't go well with the pregnancy, I would have felt equally destroyed by either a lush or desolate vegetable patch.
But today, Rob and I set Ben up in his stroller, parked with a view of our three raised beds, and we planted seeds. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we found ourselves reflecting on the process in a profound and emotional way. Last time we sowed, thank God, thank God, thank God, we were able to reap. Not that peas and lettuce are comparable to what we "planted" a year ago, but ultimately, a seed is a seed, right? A spark in the soil.
Last spring, we excitedly broke our "never order plants from catalogs" rule and got this "Vanilla-Strawberry Hydrangea" from the Jung seed company. We put it in the ground in its stick state:
We watched as it leafed out:
And could hardly believe it when the first blooms opened up.
At first I was alarmed and disappointed that these blossoms are solidly white, since I read in source after source that you can manipulate hydrangea colors, but only if the initial flowers are blue or pink.
But my thoughts were rescued when I re-read the plant's catalog description, which says, "Enormous flower panicles held on upright red stems emerge creamy vanilla
beginning in midsummer, changing to pink and finally to strawberry-red.
As new blooms continually emerge, the plant becomes a multicolored
So once again, my garden reminds me that patience is a virtue with many rewards. Worst case, a white hydrangea. But possibly--even likely!--subsequent flowers throughout the rest of the summer, and next year, will unfold in deeper pinks and strawberries. That would work for me just fine.
Waiting to see what unfolds--something we should all be doing every day.
There's something so clean and magical about the first summer fruits of a vegetable garden. The plants haven't yet gone all beautifully wild and woolly, they're still roughly in the spots where we dug them in. And the yield isn't yet overwhelming, it's putting out just enough goodness to seem precious and miraculous. All of which makes us feel like this, am I right?
Friends, I'm excited to share with you that I've recently launched a new writing gig--I'm the Dairy-Free Food writer for Boston's Examiner.com! I'll be writing 2-3 times a week with tips, advice, products, recipes, and information for those of you are on either dairy-reduced or dairy-free diets...as I am.
My dairy issue is casein, the protein found in milk (the other dairy biggie, you probably know, is lactose). In my body, casein sensitivity leads to everything from sinus issues to stomach sluggishness to acne. Since I stopped--or, if occasional cheating can be admitted, greatly reduced--my intake of dairy, I've seen marked improvement in all of these areas.
So I'm excited to pursue the topic further on Examiner.com, learning more myself as I guide you toward better, healthier choices....no cow required.
I've been away from this blog for awhile, for reasons both good and bad (yes, the list is really this dramatic: a job change, major health news, and a bona fide natural disaster). But though there is much to discuss and share, I wanted to start with some simple images of the summer just outside my kitchen window.
From stained-glass lilies to trumpeting zucchini flowers to thirsty tomatoes to clover-happy Bunny....it's all good in the 'hood.