June 18, 2012
There wasn’t much time at the end of the day, but I moved quickly around the tent trying not to get in the way of the CSA members as I grabbed heads of lettuce, a bunch of beets and chard, some green onions and green garlic and a half pound of sweet, green pea pods. New members were learning the routine of how much produce to put in their bags, returning members admired the produce with the excitement that comes from anticipating these gorgeous vegetables on their plates. I, too, was excited to bring them home and couldn't help myself from munching on some of the peas as I walked away.
This, the first harvest day of the season, began with excitement early in the morning. Each vegetable we picked was a fresh start and the air filled with smells, like the scent of green onions mixed with earth, that had been absent all spring. We cut heads of lettuce, leaves floppy and crumply like a stylish scarf, so soft that I didn’t blame the deer for getting there ahead of us and eating the center leaves of several of the heads. We pulled beets with lush green leaves and red stems growing out of that homely root of amazing color. When we washed and piled them high for bunching, the beet roots gleamed like the deepest purple Christmas balls.
This time of year, nearly everything we harvest can be called green but there are so many shades and hues of this color that the one word isn’t adequate. Bright green bib lettuce contrasts with the curly red and green heads of salad bowl lettuce. Kohlrabi is a very pale green while chard leaves are greener than grass and accented with stems of nearly neon pink, yellow, and orange. I am always surprised at the colors of plants which are so bright that they would be garish anywhere but in a field or on a plate.
After a few days of harvesting all of the colors, textures and smells become routine, but on the first day it reminds me why I love this work. I remember why I don’t mind crouching down the rows to plant seedlings and coming back again and again with the hoe to cut down the weeds. I am reassured that I want to spend a lot of my life growing and harvesting. Picking the beautiful vegetables, anticipating the tastes and the meals that they will become takes the daily tasks from the realm of chore and into a realization of meaningful work that provides sustenance and pleasure.