Friday, May 4, 2007
Working the Land
I grew up as far from the land as one can -- a product of the New York metropolitan area. The closest I ever got to farming was praying the apple tree in the yard would bare fruit -- it never did. Or, watching my father, attempt to start a vegetable garden -- to no avail. It seemed the only thing I ever got to taste ripe from the earth were radishes. Yet, in me yearned a person with the desire to dig, nurture and water. I fantasized of being a genteel farmer with fields of copious flowers, vegetables and herbs getting groomed for the table. Alas, this was not to be my fate, and now I spend my time looking at nature's product envisioning the trail that brought it to me.
I participated in a community garden at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, and thought this was a prefect situation to satisfy my need to reconnect with my childhood dream and till some dirt. There on the eastern edge of New York's iconic expanse dark, moist, worm laden earth was shipped in and then prepared by a small army of urban farmers. Apparently, I was not the only one who carved that earthly connection.
Within a month, this spot that previously supported weeds, trash and your average urban blight glowed with young sunflowers reaching toward their name sake; a plethora of tender, aromatic herbs promising a wonderful note to future dishes; tomatoes putting out small yellowish flowers a harbinger of a later joy, and squash blossoms buzzing with bees helping to ensure a bountiful harvest.
The garden was inhibited with not only all these young, epicurean possibilities, but also insects -- and I do not mean the variety us city dwellers dread to see. There were ladybugs, grasshoppers (not so welcomed, but tolerated nevertheless), praying mantis and butterflies -- I marveled at their presence for they were nowhere to be seen while we prepared the garden. I mused that there must be some insect email list that alerts these garden friends and pests of a new plot, and its potential feast. How, here in Brooklyn, with the dramatic Wall Street skyline as a backdrop, did these hopping, gliding, buzzing critters get there? Carpool in from some distance country setting for a summer internship in the city? Whatever guided them to this place they helped complete this summertime tableau of mine.
For a few short, fleeting months I was able to live off the land -- granted, even if it was a bit contrived -- enjoying delicate green beans; sweet snow peas; eggplant at that prefect moment, and of course, crisp, peppery radishes.