Here are a few stories about our now defunct garden. I've been saving them up....
Is That a STRAWBERRY?
As you may recall, our garden has been plagued with thieves and vandals, both known and unknown. There was the time we found Lola contentedly munching a green tomato that had mysteriously fallen from its hanging basket. Then there was the time I caught Allyson picking a Roma tomato from the corner garden. And when some of the tomatoes finally did manage to reach maturity, we were dismayed that tiny beak holes had marred their crimson beauty.
Never in all that time did we dream that we'd find some EXTRA produce in our yard one Saturday morning! Around a bite of blueberry chocolate chip pancake, Ethan said, "Hey, what's that on the porch? It looks like... a strawberry!"
We all rushed out onto the porch and found that it was indeed a perfect, plump strawberry. But where could it possibly have come from? Allyson had a theory. She said a bird must have dropped it. I figured it might have been one of our little tomato thieves bringing a peace offering.
Oddly enough, Lola, the dog who literally eats rocks, disdained to eat it. She put her lips around it and tested it with her pink tongue, but instead of devouring it as I expected, she rolled it gently around the porch with her nose. Occasionally she'd give it another taste, but she never did eat it. Funny dog!
Who Ate all the Parsley?
A week or so later, on a weekday morning, I was lethargically eating oatmeal when Bill called me and Ethan out to the porch. The first thing he said was, "Look at your parsley."
I surveyed the hanging basket with bleary eyes, then did a double take when I realized the parsley was GONE! Not a leaf remained, just pathetically shorn stalks.
"What happened?" I shrieked.
Bill held out his hand, upon which rested the largest caterpillar I'd ever seen.
He offered to let me hold it, but I grimaced and shuddered violently. So he set it in the bushes to grow into a butterfly... so that it could lay its eggs in my herbs some day.
The Rotter Drawer Strikes Again
The two green bell pepper plants yielded just one perfect specimen. It was plump and unblemished, and I couldn't wait to taste its crisp juiciness, fresh off the vine.
However, I couldn't immediately think of a recipe that called for bell pepper, and I don't like them well enough to eat them alone. So I put it in the fridge, where it suffered the fate of many other vegetables before it. When we thought of it a couple of weeks later, its limp form had been ravaged by mold.
One Glorious Success
The one crop that flourished was Ethan's banana peppers. The plants blossomed several times, and the peppers were large and waxy and smooth.
There was only one problem: no one would eat them. Ethan, the only one who allegedly likes banana peppers, apparently only likes the ones they serve at Subway. The first time we harvested some peppers, he eagerly cut one up, but then he just took one tiny bite and spit it in the trash.
We figured he might like them better if they were pickled. Bill said all we needed to do was put them in a jar of pickle juice. I was pretty skeptical, but I allowed myself to be swayed by Bill's total confidence. (He seems to be a storehouse of obscure knowledge, and even if he doesn't know something, he can usually make up a very plausible explanation.) We waited a few weeks, and then Ethan got ready to try them again. This time, all he did was look at the pale, limp pepper and wrinkle up his nose.
The last six peppers were too beautiful to waste. I looked up a recipe on the Internet and pickled them myself. I boiled them in straight vinegar with onions, garlic, and a variety of spices. Then I put them in an old pickle jar, closed it, and boiled the jar until the top sealed. My kitchen positively reeked, but the pickled peppers at last resembled the ones you find in the grocery store.
A day or two later, Ethan worked up the courage to try them. He gingerly touched his tongue to a pepper and said, "Ewww." So much for the theory that kids love to eat the vegetables that they plant themselves. Now the jar is sitting on the top shelf of the refrigerator, waiting for some banana pepper lover to visit.
Oh well, even though we didn't actually eat too many of our vegetables, we sure had a lot of fun with The Family Garden. We definitely plan to do it again. And I'm sure you'll hear about it when we do.