Summer veggies

My neighbor keeps bees. Really it’s her husband who is the apiarist, be she doesn’t mind an occasional hive in the backyard during its transformation from nuisance infestation to pollinator of yummy local peaches. She happens to be a fine physician, and as I rode by her house yesterday I saw her out back watering the garden. The weather’s been horrible for veggies, but she’s growing some sort of heirloom radish that’s doing great. She plucked one up for me, rinsed it off, and handed it to me. The leaves were a perfect medium green, tapering to white stems, and bulging into a perfectly round, deep pink bulb. I bit in expecting the usual bland but peppery taste of a grocery store radish. My teeth bit into the crisp flesh, and my mouth was filled with an earthy sweetness, almost like jicama, but with the peppery undertones typical of radishes. This was no garnish: this was real food.

I’ve been trying very hard to stick to real food, even when I eat crap (e.g. I’ll buy real ice cream with only three ingredients). Kids watch everything you do, make note of it, and will use it against you at any opportunity. I’m far from perfect, but I try to let my kid see me eat real, good food rather than crap. She’s made me a better eater. Like most kids, her major food groups are chicken nuggets and noodles, but if I sneak a bowl of ripe watermelon in front of her while the pasta is boiling, she’ll dig in.

The Midwest is full of good food, if you know where to look, but much of the year we are dependent on imports for fresh fruits and veggies. It’s not yet peach season here, but I did find some nice ones from Georgia, the kind that almost taste local and fall apart when you eat them. There are tons of farmers’ markets, but for busy people, this just isn’t always a feasible option, which is one of the reasons I’m happy to see more and more local produce at my supermarket.

Oh, but the local produce can be just wonderful—corn, apples, peaches, greens, berries. If they keep growing it, and my neighbor keeps sending out his pollinators, I’m a customer-for-life.

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3 Comments

  1. Karen

     /  June 20, 2011

    A neighbor who keeps bees! How cool!

    A few weeks ago one of the local pest control companies had a major campaign in my suburban California neighborhood. They came around offering a low-first-three-month contract price to rid me “of every pest within 30 feet of my home” and pointed to my spiderwebs as proof that I needed their services. Hell, on a typical California lot, that’ll reach to my fenceline in most directions! But with their version of pest control, the carpenter bees that pollenate my veggies and fruit won’t be there, and neither will the spiders that catch mosquitoes and flies.

    Alas, enough of my neighbors have taken them up on the offer that most of the carpenter bees have disappeared, and in recent years they’ve been the only reliable pollenators. AAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!

  2. D. C. Sessions

     /  June 21, 2011

    If you like your neighbors’ veggies, you (and the rest of the neighborhood) may be able to do a little bit in return: contribute to a common composting effort. We’re the growers here (tomatoes, cucumbers, chiles, eggplant, squash, okra, herbs) but several of our neighbors contribute to our compost heaps rather than do their own.

    No harm in discussing it, and your neighbor’s veggies are a better use of coffee grounds than the local landfill.

    Us? We found a double use for the compost: once a heap is full (they’re ringed by a remesh cylinder) we top it with dirt and plant squash and tomatoes in it. Awesome tomatoes this year.

  3. Sassy

     /  June 22, 2011

    Karen, not many people think that keeping bees is cool! My husband is a commercial beekeeper, and we sometimes get complaints that the ‘bees are everywhere!’ from city people who moved to the country and don’t understand that bees are pollinating those beautiful apple blossoms or blueberries across the road, and that there wouldn’t be any apples or blueberries if the bees weren’t there. We have responded to people who claim that our bees have set up shop on their porch/outbuilding, etc, and invariably it is actually hornets or wasps, not honeybees. The honeybees prefer their hives!

    I was amused the other evening when we were dropping off some bees at an Amish farm – the kids all came out and watched us working – from a safe distance, of course. They are always there when we work that bee yard, just watching, and waving when we leave. They aren’t afraid of the bees, knowing that if they leave them alone, the bees will leave them alone.

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