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Gardener’s lazy-fair approach reaps a single fruit

September, 2010

There was a blueberry in the lawn.

To be precise, there was a small blueberry bush in the half-acre of summer meadow we tried in vain to sustain at our cottage.

But the meadow was about to become history. Without the benefit of horses, cows or even geese to keep the growth down, the forest had given us an ultimatum: You mow or I grow.

This was a bitter disappointment. For more than a decade, we had assumed that merely removing the occasional tree that had erroneously taken root near the cottage would be sufficient.

I thought that we and the woods had an understanding. It was the laissez-faire (perhaps lazy-fair) approach to gardening. The woods, knowing our intentions, would stay where they were. But they had encroached about a foot a year and after a dozen years, we had stopped hedging our bets for some serious hedging.

I could imagine a sci-fi script where, in a few more years, roots of pin cherry trees would thread their way through the floorboards, spruce saplings would pop up in the pipes and bayberry bushes push from under the mattresses.

I would call it Little Cottage of Horrors, but by then it would be too late. So there I was, mowing the meadow, and grumbling, when a firm, lustrous blueberry presented itself before my blade. I plucked it and ate it. It was delicious, the start of my summer harvest. Our woods have troves of blueberries. We usually bring home a gallon or two, which are the base for a year-long series of fruit pies.

Ours is a splendidly local harvest. It includes wild raspberries, Saskatoon berries, chanterelle mushrooms and occasionally wild apples.

My search for the harvest extends to what the local farmers’ markets offer but I am not an orthodox locovore. I will buy tomatoes year round, as Quebec hydroponics producers have something relatively decent in the winter, and I enjoy bananas and pineapples whenever they are in the house.

Yet the Flavourguy within me yearns for the few weeks when strawberries come before raspberries, when the first macs are in season, when tomatoes are misshapen and the size of grapefruits, each bite is full of flavour and juice dribbles down my chin, when all I need for a taste of heaven is to slice the tomato thickly, add sea salt and a torn basil leaf on top, a splash of olive oil to spread the flavour around, and, if I feel lavish, a drop or three of balsamic vinegar. Keep a crust of bread on hand to mop up the sauce.

I will gorge on tomatoes during the brief time they are available, also for the few weeks we have fresh local corn and new potatoes.

I walk through the summer knowing that each bite might have to last until next summer. The fall is for preserving and the spring for anticipation. But the summer is for feasting. If not now, when?

As for the potato, I think of it as “the other pasta.”

Make a pesto of basil, salt, garlic, grated hard Italian cheese and a sprinkling of roasted pine nuts and serve that with small boiled potatoes. Alternatively, add fresh dill and butter or garlic, oil and chopped parsley.

And if you make too much, hooray, it’s even better, as there will be potato salad the next day for lunch.



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