I go out for fast food almost every day. I go out to the garden.
Here by May 24th the asparagus has grown about two feet tall in the last five minutes.
I snap them off low, just where they naturally bend and separate them as I walk down the row taking one after another.
I eat one or two right away and bring the rest home. I spread them on a tray, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and pepper and broil them for eight minutes until tender. Yum.
A few feet behind me is a row of red rhubarb stalks. I reach to the base and twist the glowing crimson red stem with the light coming through, and it quickly separates clean from the mother plant. I leave one third of the stalks to make its own food from the sun and mine for next spring.
My 83-year-old neighbor friend finds some rhubarb stalks on his porch tonight. The next day, like a little boy remembering something wonderful, he said, “You know what I’m going to have tonight. It’s sitting on the shelf right now! ” (His wife made him a pie.)
I ask him if he knows that some people refer to rhubarb simply as “pie plant?”
I quickly pull green upright leaves off the row of sorrel plants. They come back every year, and I don’t have to do anything except give them a little compost around their base every few years.
I take the leaves home in a plastic bag and toss them into a red lentil soup my wife made a few days ago, and there are a few jars of it in the fridge for dinner meals during the busier part of the week. The sorrel adds a wild and lemony taste to the soup, and these greens wilt down quickly as the soup heats up on the stove. I add some sour cream to my bowl as I serve it at the table, because that is how my father liked it. He would buy jars of this soup at the store and it was called “schav.” Sorrel soup. It was a staple in our cupboard next to the same size tall bottles of borsht.
These three have been my great stars for years, and I cherish these rows of perennial fast foods. I can count on them every spring. No replanting. No starting them indoors. No tilling or forking the earth. You just turn around, and they are ready to harvest and enjoy. I’m sure they are good for you, too. They used to grow on every farm and at the edge of every garden in Vermont.
Some good ideas our grandparents had we can still bring back. Fast. We can nourish the earth and ourselves at the same time. Ah, yes. Soon the haskap berries and currants will be ready for plucking and feasting on, in the berry patch a few rows over, come early summer.
David Fried is the propagator and grower at Elmore Roots Nursery and is very proud of his perennial vegetable rows.