During my years of market growing–especially during the droughts, the floods, and the back-breaking stretches of summer transplanting and spring prep, I often imagined my own perfect little garden.
How sweet it would be to just grow things I wanted to eat. How delightful! How much less work and weeding and headaches and worry! A sweet little veggie patch just for me!
This afternoon, I sat down with a pad of paper and a few of my seed catalogs, and I started making the list. It felt exciting and a little hedonistic–not worrying about filling a CSA box with a variety of vegetables every single week from mid-May through the end of October.
And then the list started to grow (pun completely intended). And grow. And in the end, I have a list, plus or minus a few things, that includes almost every crop I’ve grown for the last several years. About forty vegetables–not including the different varieties of each kind.
Predictably, the greens and spring crops headed up the list–those are the things I crave most deep in the snowy winter months. Arugula, of course. And spinach. And salad mix, and two kinds of kale, and maybe some mustard greens, and three kinds of lettuce, of course (summer crisp, romaine, butterhead).
Then there are the other goodies of the early season: sugar snap peas, baby carrots, those crisp little sweet-hot spring turnips. And radishes? What’s better than the first rosy root of the season–the dirt rubbed off on your shirt-tail and the spicy bulb snapping between your teeth?
Onions are a must (storage and green and maybe some cippolinis or Italian red bottles), and the long-season leeks are a necessity, too. Peppers? Yes, at least three or four kinds, sweet and hot. Eggplant is impossible to leave out.
I could cut back from twenty-plus varieties of tomato, though. I could grow, like, twelve. Or fifteen? I need at least three kinds of cherry tomatoes for sure, and at least three types of paste. And what about slicers and salad types?
Broccoli cannot be forgotten, but broccoli raab is pretty darn important as well. Fingerling potatoes, too, and chard, and beets, beans (snap and shell), and squash (summer and winter).
Even the annual herb list is hard to pare down: basil, cilantro, and dill, sure–but then there’s giant Italian parsley, and lemon basil, and chervil and red shiso (yes! all for me!) and cutting celery.
Speaking of celery–my perfect
veggie patch should most definitely include celeriac if I’m going to be satisfied with my stores next winter.
So, while the exercise started out very exciting and naughty-feeling in a selfish kind of way, it turned into a realization that I’ve been growing most everything I want to eat–and what I want to eat is just about every kind of vegetable that can be grown in this climate.
If anything, the “sweet-little-garden” list will be longer than the market garden list simply because there’ve been a few crops I gave up on due to difficulties with soil and climate and growing so many different things on a scale that stretched my ability to give each vegetable as much personal attention as it might’ve liked.
Despite the length of the list, which will no doubt lengthen further as I recall other wonderful fresh delights I’d like to coax from this Northern soil, it’s still a wonderful thing to dream of green gardens while lying on the couch on a sunny afternoon in winter, with a lap full of seed catalogs.