Tis the season (No, not that season, please. Not yet.)
When I started working for chef Aliesha I was blown away by her knowledge of the seasonal varieties. It verged on an instinct. I had no idea. Well, some. Tomatoes are cheap in summer, and nectarines are perfect for exactly 4 minutes of the season. Buggered if I know when that magic moment comes to pass!
Through conversation and osmosis, I improved. Noemie came along and I was once again boggled by the sense she had for the vege that was coming up next. She was living the gardener’s life, which is a life of cycles. Crop to crop, season to season.
It dawned on me as I worked on this blog, the rhythm of the seasons were so deeply ingrained in my home life growing up I never noticed. It resides as innate information. Thinking about my dad’s garden and what it was like growing up in a rural setting led me to think about how we waited each year for the raspberries to ripen. The new spuds coming in before Xmas. I don’t tend to wander down memory lane all that often, so the realization walloped me over the back of the head like an overripe marrow.
My Dad, Pete (PJ to the initiated) had quite the garden. It was part of our lives. He grew vegetables to feed the family and soon it became a pastime that he loves to this day. He’s retired now, no need to feed two hungry teenaged boys. Still, he gardens. It became more than just an affordable way to feed a growing family. It became a passion, a point of pride. And with that came stronger ties within the community.
Pete was known particularly for his tomatoes. Old mate Derrick would help with the watering and tomato care for a share of the spoils. Long and hearty were the debates as to which varieties should make the cut for the precious real estate in the glass house. When the apex of production came around the trade would begin. Bags of grapes would arrive. Carrots. You name it. Tomatoes would disappear. Connection and community. It was all just a natural part of our lives.
Now days I get to enjoy this with Noemie and her garden. When the crops are coming in strong, it gets shared around town. It’s a great excuse to pop round for a cuppa and a yarn.
We still reminisce about the crops of peas Dad grew for Christmas. It was a family effort to pick and pod the peas. Sometimes the cousins would come around and we’d sit there and pod bucket after bucket, enough for the Christmas feast. Another of those forgotten memories, half in and half out of the light. I didn’t much care for the peas back then. But if there was ice cream in the freezer and raspberries to pick, well. I would volunteer for that duty. I even managed to pick a sparce few for the rest of the family to enjoy after the best and brightest were stuffed in my mouth. Call it a labor incentive for standing out there, sweating profusely and getting scratched to hell by the thorns.
It was all just part of life. Now that I look back on it, I realize just how lucky I was. This brings all the community gardens to mind. It was a privilege to grow up on a quarter acre section with all the space we could ever need to garden. In the city we have several teams working tirelessly to bring this experience back into people’s lives. Not everyone can have a garden. The work that is being done to reconnect everyone to the seasons, the food cycles and the work that goes with it is valuable beyond measure. Because of this return to a closer relationship with where our food comes from more people are going to experience that internal clock set to a larger scale than I ever cared to see. I got to witness the slow growth and rebirth of each crop, each season. I’m so happy that some of the next generation will get to do the same.