Eatocracy's Managing Editor Kat Kinsman attempts to vegetable garden on a roof deck in Brooklyn, NY in USDA Hardiness Zone 6b. Feel free to taunt, advise or encourage her efforts as this series progresses.
My edible loofah won't fruit, and there doesn't seem to be a darned thing I can do about it. For that matter, I can't stave off daikon bolt, keep my African Guinea Flint corn from slumping or save my white bush scallop squash from the indignity of slug consumption.
This is mostly my fault, and I have to live with it. I could have just laid down to drown in a deluge of Netflix-streamed episodes of Battlestar Galactica, taken up yogalates or just napped like a normal person, but no, not me. As a friend recently pointed out to me, I use any scrap of down time I have to assign myself an extra job.
For goodness sakes, they're seeds. Their sole reason for existing is to find their way into the ground, sprout, and make more copies. People - totally reasonable, thoughtful, intelligent, rational people - are often baffled by this, thinking that is takes all manner of special lights, elixirs, urns and incantations. Nope, I say. Next time you come across an heirloom tomato (not the over-hybridized, drywall-tasting ones from the supermarket) or a colorful potato that you fancy, stick it in the dirt, and it will make more.
Unless, that is, you're a freakshow heirloom vegetable fetishist like me and insist upon trying to raise fruits from tropical climates on your semi-shaded deck. Or perhaps you (okay, I) find it necessary to mimic snow melt by popping herb seeds in and out of the freezer or attempt cucurbit varieties that require each seed to be individually scarred with a razor blade.
Even should the seed eventually germinate (the thrill of which is sometimes reward in and of itself), there's no guarantee that it will flower, fruit and flourish to an edible state. Chances are that despite my most careful organic composting, kelp, blood and fish carcass fertilization, individual slug removal service and gentle humming of Burt Bacharach's greatest hits, the plant will just...sit there, green, sterile and stolid. It may tease me with a fruitless bloom, get nibbled by invading aphids, be pooped on by the neighbor's cat or just plain slump over and die, and don't I feel silly for having tried?
I should not.
Why I set myself up for frustration is anybody's guess, and my therapist (or at least my insurance company) has made a mint over the years digging down into the underlying compulsion that drives me to attempt the improbable. I have only this to offer: I deeply dig the notion that my actions have a link to the past, may ensure the existence of a threatened ingredient for the next generation and I'm honored when someone trusts me with their seeds.
And when something actually does thrive and bring forth fruit, I can casually toss into conversation to dinner guests, "Oh that funny looking thing? I grew that from seed. Oh no - you can't get it at the market. Not that I've ever seen - but I'm happy to share some seeds if you want any..."
Yup, I'm propagating my madness - one reluctant, improbable, frustrated farmer at a time. Long may it flower.