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falling in love starts at the market, and then...

(post, Sarah Gilbert)

primary-image, l

First comes love...

I have been falling in love with a great frequency and indiscrimination matched only by my freshman year in high school (oh, 1987!). Thankfully for my husband (with whom I first fell in love when we were freshman, so I guess it can mean something after all), my current romantic interests are all of the vegetable variety.

But oh, such vegetables. I blush to own up to my ingenue. Surely, I had eaten turnips and cabbages and arugula before, but I'd decided they were no, not for me, better suited for the pages of Beatrix Potter and the contents of a 17th-century soup pot than for my kitchen (or my garden).

Each one floors me, stuns me with its possibilities. Last spring it was green garlic; in the summer came kohlrabi. The fall and winter saw me fall in swoon, cuckoo for celeriac and cabbage.

Today, it's turnips, and though I never before thought turnips were romantic -- except as the Brer Patch and head scarves and Peter Rabbit are romantic, in a sweet Old English peasant way -- we two are inseparable, cozying up for late-night dinners in a dark dining room, or picnicking on the front porch on a lazy afternoon. I have turnips sliced in bagel sandwiches with cream cheese, lettuce and snap peas; turnips turned into matchsticks and sprinkled through salads, dressed with chickpea miso and tahini; turnips in a lovely Asian braise with bok choy and grass-fed beef stew meat (oh, did I mention the bok choy? faint).

... Then comes marriage...

What's problematic is the commitment. As a gardener in the throes of springly passion, and possessed with a larger-than-the-average-girl's space in which to grow things, it's hard not to fall in love and immediately go out and pick up a couple of seed packets. Is it too late to plant turnips? Will bok choy end up as food for the aphids? Are my celeriac seeds ever going to sprout? Is a crop of cabbages just one brassica too many?

The fava beans are the worst of it, a story for another day because oh, I am so deeply, madly, truly in love and it seems folly to buy them at the market when they supposedly grow so beautifully here (and did you know they fix 200 pounds of nitrogen per, umm, some unit of measure? Yeah! I know!)

Marriage and the baby, complete with her carriage, are all wrapped up in the garden. It's true what they say about love being blind, and how, if we knew how hard marriage and parenting would be, we wouldn't ever consummate anything.

Growing things is hard, but, like spouses and children, if you're willing to put in the hard work you'll create magic (and deliciousness), and the industry now will pay off for years to come.

Perhaps there are days I regret how easily I fall in love. But at a dinner table, eating a little of what I've sown and daydreaming over a seed catalog and my sketched map of the garden (a mud-splattered and well-loved copy of Steve Solomon's Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades at my elbow, of course), there are no regrets, only possibilities.

I'd appreciate a little relationship counseling, however. Has anyone grown turnips?