I have a gazillion volunteer tomato plants coming up in my veggie bed, and this weekend
I was working on a new bed that will run along the curb down at the street. I'm going to
transplant some of these volunteers and snake a soaker hose through the bed, then mulch
the whole thing. I hope neighbors will stop to pick, though I expect I'll still have a lot of
tomatoes to harvest. There are several folks who I regularly visit with on their evening
walks who will know that they are welcome to pick what they need. I may put out a little
sign "pick what you can use today or tomorrow, and come back for more later." Or something
to that effect.
One of these families that walks regularly is an interesting trio, and they provided one of the
many reasons why one must "never assume" about people's foodways or cultures. The Mexican
father is interested in cactus pads, but one day we were talking about my extra rosemary.
I asked if he'd like some. "Yes! I could use it when I cook lamb," he responded.
My ears perked up. Lamb in Mexican cooking? What new wonderful dish could I learn about?
I asked him how he uses lamb. Turns out he spend 20 years in Chicago and learned to love
lamb in the various other ethnic food cultures found there. Probably similar to my favorite lamb
dishes I learned in New York City.
I'd guess his son was about six years old last summer when they stopped on one of their evening
walks to talk. I invited them up to the driveway tomato patch and had the son pick a very large
ripe juicy tomato to take home for dinner. This child was clearly pleased to get to pick such a
large red tomato, and he said he liked them. Now, I'm not worried that a seven-year-old (this year)
is going to raid my tomatoes when I'm not looking. But I won't be surprised, next time we visit, to
learn that they are growing some of their own tomatoes.
I made an arrangement with my next door neighbor. She had trouble growing okra when she planted
it, but she loves it. I grew up in Seattle, and to me, okra is a foreign dish from the get-go. I
planted a couple of okra plants right along my fence (next to her yard, and she can see it from
her kitchen window). I told her she is welcome to (and please do!) come pick those okra when they're
ready, and the only request I have is that she teach me how to cook okra. Preferably not boiled. But
whatever. I'm game, I want to see how this grows, and she can use it. She's a good cook, and I'd
like to learn to use this vegetable.
Isn't gardening great? It's like an outpost of the United Nations in your neighborhood.