Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I love Spring.
Spring in Florida is a lot like Brigadoon. It appears for only a short time.  It's perfect in every way and then vanishes for what seems like an eternity.
Despite its shortlived guest shot, I am a huge fan.  The temperature is the perfect blend of just enough warmth and the right amount of cool.  Flowers resemble Faberge eggs, bright and bejeweled. It hurts your eyes to look at them. And all that green in all its majestic hues breathes out with such a force and at the same time calms you. It's the green of heaven before its sheen is scorched so thoughtlessly by endless months of summer.
Spring is about planting. That's when my herbs go in.  Always not enough basil because I believe basil should go into everything including smoothies and oatmeal.  I mean, what's better than basil leaves between fat slices of tomatoes and buffalo mozzarellla drizzled  with olive oil?  That's food of life lived barefoot in Tuscan villas.  Then there's the rosemary, the Dick Clark of herbs in my garden.  Most of the time I don't have to plant rosemary but every 5 or 6 years when that freak ice storm or prolonged freeze during our 3 weeks of winter flatlines it for good.  Oregano, flat parsley and its swarthy brother, curly parsley are accounted for.  Lemon balm for sure because one of these days I will need it for a life-saving poultice.  Mint, lots of mint for tabouli, but even more important for summer's mojito season.  Dill, for some reason, doesn't have the bones to make it in my garden for more than a week and a half.  I've decided dill is the Richard Simmons of the herb world and I'll stand by that.
My gardening holy grail is tomatoes.  Many people can grow it by the bushels.  I cannot.  I don't know why.  I give it the nutrients, the right amount of water, the cow manure.  I sing it a little Sarah MacLaughlin because I'm guessing tomatoes like her. I put some in the ground, I've tried containers, even upside down containers.  I get virtually nothing for my efforts.  Sometimes I do see some fruits growing, ripening and then it seems they jump ship.  Some of then end up on the ground, wounded still trying to get to higher ground.  Many of the blooms just don't take at all.  They wither and die like so many of my plans to exercise daily.
I'm not sure why every single spring I sacrifice a handful of tomato plants to the gardening gods.  Why not squash?  Why not cucumbers?  I suppose it's because I love them the most, I do.
Tomatoes are gorgeous.  Delicious with just a sprinkling of sea salt.  From a cooking perspective they are amazingly versatile.  Fresh slices on a piece of chewy Italian bread.  Grilled with a little rosemary on top of couscous. Chopped and roasted  with scallions on some grouper. Like a great conversationalist, when added to any side dish it improves it beyond measure.  
So it is with great hope every single Spring that I plant tomatoes and wait for a modest harvest. Which makes sense because that's what Spring does. It asks you to be patient and appreciative of things that sprout and bloom even for a short time.