The rain is finaling drying up and the warmer weather has turned the hugel mound into a tomato jungle. Last week we made the decision to heavily prune all the suckers and many of the accompanying branches that were without fruit or flowers on the tomatos. There were several early crops (hardly a crop and more like a couple plants) that were ready to be harvested these past few weeks. The first out of the mound were the plump heirloom beets grown from seed. Shepard, our rising second-grader and only son had the honor of plucking the first beet from the dirt.
The tops of the beet root were slightly scaled from exposure to the air and the rest of the root beneath the dirt pulsed red and felt smooth like sanded wood. Jon and Shep washed them under the outside spicket beside the hoop house; wrapped the beets in paper towels; then drove straight home to get a closer look.
We lobbed off the tender greens and sauteed them that afternoon. They were dressed simply in olive oil, salt, fresh pepercorn and a twist of lemon. The silky greens were meaty and minerally, but nothing like the bulbous red beet below the greens. I admit I was never a beet fan until I had them roasted and glazed in homemade plum sauce. Slurp, snarf, snort.. Yes. It was that good.
Since then, we’ve made toothsome pesto from the opal and sweet basils, and used the mustard greens in a quiche with thick-cut bacon and eggs from our hens. Suzanne took some of the tender Romaine home over the weekend for lunch wraps. All the first fruits of our communal garden on the hugel mound have tasted better than expected and were well-worth our effort.
Everyday we leap over the heaps of mud and debris piled in front of the hugel mound eager to inspect the plants for growth. Without fail, my mouth gapes open as I pet the fronds from the colossal tomatoes, then squint in disbelief at the dent corn that we thought Wayne stunted, but in fact has grown as big as a thoroughbred. The ears have delicate pink silk pom-poms and should be ready within days. Today Jordan and Aaron noticed the strawberries and watermelon in the neighboring mound were starting to layer. We also pulled up and promptly re-planted an onion. We are still hedging bets on whether they are scallions (spring onions) or big ol’ bulb onions.
Life can be like the plants in the hugel mound. What was once discarded and devalued refuse can be melded together, nurtured and given time, love and tenderness. Now, it produces healthy fruit and teaches us the renewing and life-giving principles that are replicated throughout Earth’s creation. The first fruits were always given to honor God’s life-giving goodness.
May God be honored by our first fruits.