July 24, 2017

Call Me the Legume Leprechaun, Squash Sprite or Zucchini Zealot

The harvest fills numerous baskets on a good day

Janine Pineo Photo | The harvest fills numerous baskets on a good day

• By Janine Pineo •

Back when the winter winds were sweeping down through Maine, I was yearning for fresh string beans, golden summer squash, crisp leaf lettuce, juicy tomatoes and green, green zucchini.

So I did what any self-respecting gardener would do: I bought seeds.

Lots and lots, and then a few more.

This spring, when it finally stopped raining — and even when it was raining — I planned, plotted and planted the works.

I had lovely wide rows for walking, visions of trellised plants reaching for the heavens, and even a small bench for me to rest on when my weary bones said, “Sit and smell the kale.”

Sometime in July something went dreadfully wrong. It happened, as it does every year, during my vacation. I leave for a few days and when I get back: insta-jungle.

I’ve got peas that refuse to climb the trellis and keep tipping westward-ho. I’ve got beans (six kinds — what a fool I am) that: 1) won’t climb the trellis; 2) have pulled the trellis down; and-or 3) are snaking easterly across the rows and climbing the opposite trellis. I’ve got some kind of squash plant that sprang from who-knows-where that is climbing a trellis that doesn’t even belong to it.

I have to jump over the summer squash “bushes” (try hedge) and bend down to skirt around the 6-foot-high-and-rising shoofly (which reseeded itself just about everywhere, pesky thing).

And despite my good intentions for putting the tomatoes on a trellis, the dear little giants have uprooted my poles and tipped into the row I made just for walking between the plants without fearing for life and limb. Heaven forbid if I am the slightest bit dizzy when wrestling my way down the nonexistent walkway. If I should misstep, I wouldn’t be found until after the first killing frost. I can see it now, just me and the frogs way down there in that deep, dark forest with the occasional cherry tomato splatting off my forehead.

But who am I to complain when I spot those ripe tomatoes peeking through the twisted vines, or when I see the cool yellow glow of wax beans dangling along the row, or when I find the green gleam of a fresh pepper?

The harvest is in full swing and I couldn’t be happier.

Nothing is as rewarding as picking a basket full of produce and then hauling it to the kitchen. Just the other day I spent a couple of hours working my way through the garden, picking beans, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, onions, green peppers and even a few baby carrots. Then I dug the first new potatoes and nearly jumped for joy when the first red jewel rolled to my feet. I decided that I’d gathered enough and bypassed the Chinese cabbage, lettuce and greens. One can eat only so much at one meal.

As I headed for the house, I thought of willing victims to whom I could give some of these treasures. I always plant more than I could ever use, so I start matching people with produce. Just call me the legume leprechaun, the squash sprite or the zucchini zealot. I don’t mind.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in August 1995.

2012 update: Hmm. Nothing has really changed. I am not sure what that says about me except I do try to run a tight ship these days. But those plants are out there 24 hours a day, growing to the beat of a different drummer. A very rapidly pounding drummer that whips them into a frenzy by early August. With baskets and boxes of produce as a result, who am I to complain, really?