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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: October 10, 2019

Jane Thibodeau Martin

The Last Cucumber

Well for the third time this fall, I have come in from the garden with what I am sure is the "last" cucumber. I swear I have looked carefully through all the nearly-dead vines each time, and found no cucumbers at all, not even tiny ones, yet on a trip to collect more tomatoes or cut some flowers a day later, I spot yet another one, or maybe even three. I think I have good eyes, so I don't understand how in the world I miss seeing them, but I do.

Now I am not talking about zucchini, which we all know can magically grow from two inches to an inedible size overnight".cucumbers don't grow that fast. (I didn't plant any zucchini. People give them away, leave them in your unlocked car, even bribe you with a bonus kitten to take them. No need to plant any, you are offered some everywhere you go!)

A cucumber looks nothing like cucumber leaves do, so it amazes me how hard these vegetables are to see. I'm glad for another "last" cucumber to be sure, because the ones in the store all winter are almost as bad as the tomatoes. One end or the other of each cucumber is always wrinkled and soft, they are usually really seedy, and they taste watery. But I am still perplexed at their ability to hide from me in my garden.

Another vegetable that has this talent for hiding is asparagus. My parents had a really productive patch naturalized in a small field by their house. We'd be sent out almost daily to pick in season, because asparagus is another vegetable that can go from tiny to seeding really quickly. But the stalks were diabolically hard to spot among the grasses. A nice hefty asparagus stalk like they grew looks nothing like the slender grasses around it, but there were times I found it with my feet as often as I spotted it with my eyes. And it wasn't uncommon for one of us to pick asparagus, and have a sibling go through the patch 10 minutes later and find a dozen more ready to pick stalks that the first picker missed.

Wild strawberries have an ingenious camouflage as well. For some reason, only during the fruiting season, some of the plant's leaves turn crimson. I would be intently searching for the delicious little berries but was repeatedly deceived by the red leaves. I have no idea why the plant does this, since its strategy for propagation involves attracting animals and especially birds to eat the berries and then broadcast the seeds through their droppings. But it is employing some ingenious strategy I don't understand; one of Mother Nature's fascinating design features that is beyond my limited knowledge, like many other strategies she employs.

There is something about this "hunt" for food that is genetically hard-wired in us all. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers; their lives depended on finding and exploiting natural food sources. We can't satisfy that "gathering" urge by wandering around in a produce department in a big store; looking at fruits and vegetables arranged on little trays and smothered in plastic and stickers. But going out to get some zinnias for the vase and spotting one more perfect cucumber " that satisfies my hunter-gatherer soul.

If it ever quits raining " get out and breathe the fall air and revel in the beautiful scenery. It has a short "shelf life" and people pay a lot of money to travel here to see what we have in our own backyards. It is glorious!

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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