Emma Alter


My mother raised me to think for myself, and to live my life the way I wanted to and ignore what other people were doing and the trends they followed. So when women of my generation were out working at high-powered careers, I was lying on the living room floor reading books to my babies. I gardened before the Baby Boomers discovered it and drove up plant prices. I bought local Ontario produce in season before it was fashionable. But now I have a confession to make: I bought some vegetables to grow in my garden, even though everyone is doing it. It started out innocently enough. My daughter and I went to the nursery to get some herbs to plant in pots.

She said, you have all this space in the backyard, why don't you grow vegetables instead of spending money at the farmers' market? My husband always asks the same question. We have a cottage and I spend 7-8 weeks there during the summer without ever returning to the city. You can't plant a vegetable garden in the spring, go away for the entire growing season and return to a bountiful harvest. I can't garden at the cottage because the land is essentially all rock where we are. If you do find a patch of earth, then you are pretty much growing food for whatever animal finds your vegetables tasty. One of my neighbours rose one morning to find a moose chewing her lettuce.

My mother has been growing vegetablesin her garden for 30 years, but now it is the thing to do. But not the plain old beets and carrots and beefsteak tomatoes that she grows. Today there were two articles in the same morning paper about "must have" seeds for heirloom tomatoes, yellow carrots, even quinoa. So although I succumbed to my daughter's suggestion that we try a few vegetables that have an early harvest, I resisted the designer plants. I bought some modest little lettuce plants, spinach, red peppers, swiss chard and a few pea plants along with my herbs. I also decided to try growing some tomatoes in containers. If my cheap Big Boy tomatoes survive growing in pots and don't get eaten by various critters I might spring for the pricey heirloom varieties next year. By then everyone else will have moved on to heirloom melons.

Difficulty Level: Easy