My neighbor’s lilac bush is blooming. The rose bush in our yard might burst open this week, if it’s warm enough. And it’s the Fourth of July, but that’s just the kind of weather year we’re having.
In other summers, at this point, I’d be writing about the first harvests from our plot at the community garden, but there’s not much to report yet. In fact, it’s been a challenging year for gardening.
Ambitiously, I grew sprouts of zucchini, yellow squash and broccoli this spring. I pictured picking the big zucchini in July, telling them I remember when they were just a seed. The sprouts grew and grew, and looked too big for their starter cups. So I planted them in the garden during the beginning of June, a week after Memorial Day.
Local lore says to wait until the snow has melted off of Bell Mountain, and I should have listened to that. A week later it got cold enough to freeze, and all of the all the starts except the broccoli died. I persevered, purchasing already robust squash starts from the nursery. (Apparently there is a zucchini shortage in the valley this year?) They went into the ground on Father’s Day, and a week later I was back at the garden covering them in plastic bags to protect them from another frost and potential snow.
They’re hanging on, but barely. The lettuce is just sprouting up and the radishes are peeking out.
But I don’t feel alone. Walking through the farmers’ market, it’s easy to assess that the season is late for everyone. Stands are mostly full of spring greens, radishes and early carrots. Cherries, which are typically gone by Independence Day, are still tasty, along with apricots.
Recently eating at Coohills in Denver — Tom and Diane Coohill also have a pop-up at the Chefs Club this summer called Park90 — with a group of journalists, chef Tom explained to the out-of-staters that even though it was late June, we’d still be eating spring food because it’s an odd season in the Rockies. That meant micro-greens, peas, and asparagus.
But of course we’re spoiled. While I hope that someday we eat locally and seasonally as a lifestyle instead of a trend, right now it’s more of a passion than a necessity. If our crops fail, we can go to the grocery store. It’s frustrating, but it’s not life-threatening.
And sometimes there’s surprise and delight in the unexpected. I was complaining about the zucchini that died to a neighboring gardener, and telling her there were no more starters in the valley. She told me that a few summers ago, the same thing happened to her and she substituted with pattypan squash, which became one of her favorites. “This is the life of eating and growing sustainable agriculture,” she said.
Even if we’re not dependent on it, through the ups and downs we’re certainly getting a taste.
Christine Benedetti writes about food here every other week. Mostly the plant kind. She’s editor-in-chief of Aspen magazine, but you can reach her @cabenedetti.