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Hunter: My Favorite Time

11/16/10 5:55PM By Edith Hunter
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(HOST)  Commentator Edith Hunter is savoring the last days of fall - and reflecting on time spent in the garden.

(HUNTER) You would think that my favorite time in the vegetable garden would be early August when the crops are really coming in. Then it is almost impossible to keep up with the string beans. The never-failing chard is handsome and lush. Several kinds of lettuce, arugula, and basil are ready to be picked. The yellow summer squash are a treat, and Zucchini are beginning to be a problem. The cucumbers are threatening to need pickling, and the first tomatoes are finally ripening. It is even possible to reach under the flowering potato plants, and steal one or two new potatoes. But that's not my favorite time in the garden.

My favorite time is just before the first frost. Then I have to search for things to pick. I find just enough pole beans to cook for my supper, and one lone cucumber hanging on the trellis. I see that there is a butternut squash that Charlie missed, and add that to my basket.

But the crop that I really enjoy picking are the tiny cherry tomatoes in the asparagus bed. Yes, in the asparagus bed. About four years ago, in July, when I was weeding the asparagus, I discovered some volunteer tomato plants. I decided to leave them and discover what kind of tomatoes they might produce.

In early September I began seeing little red spots in among the asparagus. They were larger than the asparagus berries. They were cherry tomatoes. I went in and picked a few. They were the sweetest cherry tomatoes that I had ever tasted. And the plants were loaded. Every year since, tomatoes have self-seeded in the asparagus bed.

I have chairs in several key locations in the garden, and at this time of year one is in the asparagus bed.

Is there any lovelier experience than sitting in the garden with the warm autumn sun on my back, surrounded by the asparagus foliage, and volunteer tomato plants full of tiny red tomatoes? The sky is a gorgeous blue. Milkweed seeds float by. I hear another apple fall from the Northern Spy.  Some of the lines of an Emily Dickinson poem run through my head.

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, -
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.

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