This Thing Called Courage

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mulberry Time, Strawberry Time


IT'S THE TIME OF YEAR WHEN THE SEASONS CURVE INTO SUMPTUOUS BOUNTY. Little swollen white knots are appearing in the secret apexes of my cauliflower plants. The woods out back have become impenetrable mysteries, plumbed at night by fireflies. The milkweeds in my front garden are four feet tall and thick with balls of still-unopened blossoms-- any day now and this whole section of Main Street will be drenched in their sweet smell. If you grow it they will come, and butterflies by day and these bizzare hummingbird moths at night go wild around the plants, gorging on its nectar. And, while I don't grow them myself, it's the time of year when the luscious red strawberries (they must be native!) come into season. Pick up a quart at Verill Farms in Concord or Sun Valley Farms in Lexington. Bring them home and let them come to room temperature. Shove your nose into them as if they were a bouquet-- heaven!!!! Eat them with your fingers, then lick your fingers of the juice. It's the only time of year I eat strawberries-- those Chernobyl strawberries from California the size of tennis balls are a very poor substitute.

Which is all by way of speaking about my lunch today. Freshly pulled dandelion greens and baby spinach, in a salad with sliced strawberries, walnuts, and warmed goat cheese-- mmmm mmm good. For dessert, a freshly baked apple cider doughnut with crushed strawberries on top. My oh my. No, it'll be at least anbother month before the queens of the home garden, the tomatoes, are ready, but in the meantime we have our fresh greens and strawberries. That will do! Oh, I've failed to mention the huge and ancient Mulberry tree, just outside my back door, which must be as old as this house (1855). It was trimmed two years ago and I've never seen so many mulberries on it as this year-- the tree is almost drooping with them! The birds know this, and the tree is stiff with our feathered friends in the early mornings, and I sneak out and have my breakfast on the back stoop, with the bird song dripping on down. I harvest only the Mulberry windfalls, and these number in the hundreds, and this afternoon I'm baking a Mulberry tea bread, which tells my tongue that it's mid-June. One of the best things about having a garden is, it grounds you to the cycle of seasons. It isn't a certain day and certain month, burdened with a name and number, but rather-- strawberry time. Mulberry time. Milkweed time. And aren't we the lucky ones, to be alive in the midst of it.

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