Family garden grows seeds of tradition

COLUMN DANCE CLASS SPICES UP MARRIAGE

BY ELLIE GROSSMAN

This steamy summer has been a time for growth, in more ways than one. While Jack and Sari continue to grow like weeds, so does my vegetable garden. Gardening, in fact, is our new family hobby. When we cultivate a few crops of our own, from carrots to pumpkins, we plant the seeds of quality time together. Besides, everything tastes better when homegrown. Tomatoes are sweeter. Cucumbers are crisper. And nothing cleans breath better than chewing a fresh parsley sprig.

Edible landscaping is a fun outdoor activity that appeals to gardeners of all ages. Gardening teaches youngsters responsibility, such as when they water plants and pull weeds. Maybe Jack is more likely to try something green if he helps grow the zucchini himself. Gardening brings out the child in all of us. Every time we discover another watermelon, we jump for joy like we’ve won the lottery. Plus, it’s fun to play in the dirt and swat at grasshoppers, especially when my family works together towards a common goal.

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Even though the summer days are shorter and the season is about to change, our garden is still full of life. Our garden may not be pretty, but we are proud. Our vegetable patch boasts a little bit of everything, from sweet bell peppers that grow in the shape of embryos to prickly cucumbers that resemble hand grenades. At first, we compared our vegetables to the polished produce at the supermarket. In time, however, we accept these imperfections as a gift. For example, just because the eggplant hangs round and heavy like a bowling ball, the Burpee Hybrid still tastes yummy when dipped in breadcrumbs and fried in oil.

Also, we do whatever it takes to protect our garden from hungry animals and bugs. Some of the natural remedies include human hair, soap shavings, and cayenne pepper flakes. Like an-old lady’s clothesline, a nylon stocking hangs from a gawky tomato stalk and is filled with clips of my highlighted hair. So far, this natural plant remedy keeps away deer and chipmunks.

I’m no Martha Stewart, but I have to admit my thumb is a little greener. Even though I can’t save a limp philodendron for the life of me, I have a knack to grow herbs and use them in my favorite recipes.

Nowadays, I snip oregano, sage, tarragon, garlic chives, sweet basil, and mint right at my fingertips. I like to chop fresh cilantro in homemade chunky salsa and turkey burgers, and rosemary adds a savory flavor to grilled chicken and roasted red potatoes. Maybe I do sound like Martha Stewart.

When the Talmud teaches “Even as they planted for me, so I plant for my children,” I realize that the rabbis refer to the obligation of Jewish people to plant roots for the next generation of Jews. My garden gives me a similar purpose. Hopefully, I will start a new tradition, and my garden will continue to grow, one seed at a time. Not only that, I have a deeper appreciation for how the earth gives back each time I nurture the soil. In other words, I’ll never look at a tossed salad the same way again.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is obsessing over her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah, so please feel free to send any advice to: [email protected] or visit her website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.

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