I think of those vegetables I despised as a child and now adore - beefsteak tomatoes, swiss chard, roasted Brussels sprouts - and attribute this change of heart partly to the satisfaction of having grown these things myself and partly to learning new ways to prepare them besides in a steamy, soggy mess. If I could plant only basil and tomatoes I would still be happy, and they are regular fixtures in my garden, but there are also spinach and baby greens, and broccoli and red cabbage, and cucumbers twinning toward the apex of their triangular trellises. I like nothing better than a tart rhubarb pie (strawberries optional), unless it is a cherry pie made fresh from the tree. I drink peppermint iced tea by the gallon thanks to herb gardens at Windrock and my own backyard.
And so I turn my hands to the earth of my garden and my thoughts to those gustatory pleasures to come. As a forager and gardener I mark the days of light and warmth by when my rhubarb will be ready for pies and tomatoes grow heavy on the vine. I carry the gardens of my youth in my heart, surprised to find myself inter-planting gladiolas among the beans and basil until I remember my grandfather's garden in the 1970s and its glorious ranks of glads. I think of my mother's strawberry beds and gooseberries she made into jam. Some children remember the tyranny of weeding before play, but I think of the pennies we got for every Japanese beetle dropped in the kerosene jar, and nickels for every tomato horn-worm.
What we cannot grow on our own patches of suburban earth, others in this region are glad to produce. Connecticut abounds in Farmer's Markets and there are half a dozen in Litchfield County. In my corner of the Northwest Corner you are more likely to visit a farm stand than a farmer's marker, unless you hop over the line on Friday afternoons to the one in Sheffield in the southern Berkshires. There are also a growing number of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in our area, where shareholders pick up bags of seasonal produce for an annual membership fee. Folks are more concerned with where their food comes from and how it is raised, and nothing gets you closer to the source - besides raising it yourself - than belonging to a CSA.
This is also a season of wild foods in plenty. Quahogs by the shore and cattails in the swamps entice me to culinary delights. Berry picking, inky-fingered, is all the sweeter at the field edge with the wood thrush trilling in the shadows of the forest. I have not yet attempted dandelion wine - my jack-of-all-trades grandfather Barker experimented with such concoctions but lacked the vintor's patience to produce something more than merely drinkable - but expect to give this a try as well this summer. I will have to wait until next year to try any of my bottled sunshine, but will certainly let you know the results.