I always get a little stiff and tight in the middle of my back when hubby slides his gardening books onto the kitchen table. I’m guessin’ it’s from all the dreaded anticipation of planning the fall vegetable garden. Yep, I know for certain Rick is gonna ask me what sort of veggies I’d like to see harvested this year. It has been my experience if I don’t cram enough choices in that little plot in the backyard, he’s gonna sow lots of something LESS than appetizing stuff we might have to choke down for a long time.
It has been several weeks since I’d rattled off a lengthy list of the usual suspects. There were pole beans, peas, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, and green and red bell peppers. I watched as Rick got out the graph paper, dusted off his trusty engineering ruler, and dabbed his precisely sharpened number-two lead pencil on his tongue. As I sat beside him in silence watching him work, tiny beads of sweat erupted from the middle of my forehead and trickled down my nose, splashing onto my upper lip. Had my laundry list been long enough? Would he notice the sweat droplet that had just plunged like hot, molten lava onto the corner of his graph paper? Hopefully, Rick would mistake it for drool. After about 30 minutes, I had my answer.
“I believe there is plenty of room for everything you requested. As an added bonus, we have space to add some collard greens AND Brussels sprouts this year,” Rick announced with glee.
“Are you sure? We’ve never tried those two. Honestly, I don’t think you have enough tomato plants on that plot plan. And you know how much we love tomatoes from the garden,” I said, trying not to be obvious.
It’s not that I have anything against collard greens and Brussels sprouts, mind you. Growing up so far north of the Mason Dixon Line, my mom never cooked those two foreign vegetables. When it came to the veggie food group, I spent my formative years raised primarily on green beans, peas and corn from a can. And besides, collard greens and Brussels sprouts make your house smell kinda funny.
It wasn’t long after Rick’s visit to the local garden center that everything was planted in nice, neat little rows. The guy is painfully precise. After he was finished planting, I couldn’t help but notice the five glaring collard greens planted at one end of the garden. Grrr.
There was one bright and shiny spot. The garden center thankfully hadn’t gotten in their Brussels sprouts yet. I remember thinkin’ maybe they’d never arrive, or perhaps someone else would purchase all the plants when they did. I silently said a little prayer. I wasn’t sure which saint to pray to, as there probably wasn’t a patron saint for keeping Brussels sprouts lost, but it couldn’t hurt.
Several weeks into the growing season, one of the collard green plants showed obvious signs of distress, and honestly, I didn’t have a thing to do with it. The symptoms included a lot of withering and some nibbling by pests. Personally, I couldn’t imagine what kind of bug would want to take a bite out of a collard green leaf. Obviously, it’s an acquired taste. It was difficult, but I refrained from dragging out my pom poms and doing a little cheer in the backyard. In no time, we were down to four healthy collard green plants that were getting larger by the minute.
I soon learned another creative way to get rid of collard greens. One of my friends is married to a Southern gentleman and mentioned her hubby loves the stuff. With Rick’s blessing, it is why this week he is the recipient of an entire collard green plant. Not sure if I was supposed to do this, but I just pulled the whole thing up by the roots, planted it in a clay pot, and delivered it to his office. I figured if he doesn’t eat it right away, he can always use it to spruce up his reception area.
On a sad note, the garden center just called. The Brussels sprouts are in. Lots of them. Excuse me while I reach for the super duper-strength Advil bottle. I feel a little back twinge coming on.