Gardening: More than Food

I love summertime gardening. The long sunny days ensure a bumper crop of tomatoes, snap peas, onions, cucumbers, zucchini… But here in Santa Barbara, we get May Gray and June Gloom, too. Those days without sun may feel like we’ve been robbed of a summer day. (Mark Twain is credited with quipping. “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” I get the feeling.)

But now that I spend so much time in my garden, I embrace the cooler days. I know that the ground is staying moist. It’s easier for me to spend an hour out there without melting my brain. I love to see water droplets form on the leaves, and see how each plant is designed to capture mist and turn it into a big drink of water.

I love the surprises I find in my garden. One day the plant is all green. The next day I spy a blossom! I know what that means…a fruit or vegetable will soon follow. I am forever amazed to watch the process of a flower turning into something that I can eat. I love it when a blossom is still stuck on the end of a pea — I can see the full life-cycle of this crispy, crunchy, refreshing delicacy!

Just the other day, a huge cucumber was hiding in my garden. It was almost a foot long. I had been tracking its sibling on the same vine, and harvested it when it was ready. The next day, I was poking around the plant, checking on the blossoms, and here was this huge cucumber! How had I missed it? Did it actually grow 12 inches overnight?? Or had it simply been camouflaged by its big protective green leaves? It is these types of surprises that pull me to the garden.

And it is purpose that keeps me coming back. I recently listened to Dan Buettner‘s fantastic book “Blue Zones Solutions“, wherein he explains the long life spans of people in various regions of the world. Okinawa, Japan is famous for its high population of women over 100 years old. Many of these women tend to their gardens everyday. I love that, and want to do the same in 50 years. Rather than see it as “drudgery”, they see it as purpose, and a connection to the earth. When we work hard in our garden, we are inclined to eat and enjoy the fruits of our labor. This means that we will naturally be eating more fruits and vegetables, which are known to be good for our health.

What a blessing that the very thing that feeds my soul also feeds my body.

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