By Jean Blish Siers *
Some days, just about the only mail we get at our house comes from developers who want to buy our house to tear it down. My husband and I have a joke that one day we’ll return home and find our little house in rubble, knocked down by mistake as a careless surgeon might remove the wrong limb. Our close-in Charlotte neighborhood stood sleepily-still the first 25 years we lived here, but in the past five years, property values have skyrocketed and the land on which our house sits is much more valuable than the 1940s bungalow that rests on it.
More valuable, that is, to anyone but us! We love our house and our yard, and we love our garden plots in the back where we attempt to raise, each year, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and more. Mostly, we putter back there and then I shop with the farmers I work with all summer.
But last week, we had a garden success story: We harvested our first full pound of asparagus. For those of you who don’t know, planting an asparagus bed is an investment in the future. Because we never planned to stay in our little house this long, we didn’t start the bed when we moved in. Instead, we finally set in the crowns three years ago. The crowns take about three years to really get strong and start producing. We’ve sneaked a taste or two over the last couple years, but this year, we should be in asparagus heaven!
Occasionally, a realtor will actually dig around enough to find my number and call, asking if we want to sell. And I tell them, “No, I can’t sell now. I have an asparagus bed and I need to get my time and money’s worth out of it!”
Seeing those perfect shoots of asparagus pushing through the ground last week gives me hope that we’ll be back in the fields again soon. I’ve talked to some of the farmers who donate to us and they’ve assured me that the strawberries are growing and the peach trees are budding. Greens are in, and tomatoes are started in greenhouses.
While it’s great fun to glean a summer field, it’s more serious than that. This time of year, if I move a few thousand pounds of produce in a month, it’s a good month. In the summer, I can move thousands of pounds in a day, and all that food feeds our hungry neighbors. It’s not lost on me, or any of my volunteers or the agencies we serve, that people are just as hungry in March as they are in August.
While others in my neighborhood are delighted as 3,000-square-foot houses sprout out of the ground to replace the 1,000-square-foot houses, I’m more excited to see my asparagus sprouting. To me, it means children eating strawberries again, and seniors getting a bag of corn or a box of tomatoes. It means agencies shoehorning an 800-pound bin of zucchini into a cooler, or sending a truck for a load of grapes.
So here’s to spring — and the bounty of another year of harvesting!
* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s gleaning coordinator in Charlotte, North Carolina.