Eden remembered

Once upon a time, I had a community garden plot. I cherished it very much the first few years.

Sun Gold closeupI grew huge amounts of tomatoes. My coworkers and I were particularly fond of the Sun Gold tomato, which has a remarkably intense flavor. Sun Gold is famous among tomato fanciers because of this flavor, and because it produces extraordinarily prolifically, and because it splits, so that it is not available in stores. If you have the chance to grow Sun Golds, do it. If you have a friend who grows Sun Golds, beg for some. They’re that good.

But eventually, what disgruntled community gardeners everywhere universally call “the politics” crept into my consciousness. Every gardening community seems to have its own “the politics.” For me, it seemed that whatever I grew seemed to be criticized for one reason or another by TPTB, the gardeners who had been there since the creation of the community garden decades before. One plant attracted rats, one attracted birds that would leave seed hulls on the ground, another species was “inappropriate for a community garden.” Over the next few years, I neglected my garden more and more as the joy leaked away and I did not feel like going there any more. I did not have the stamina to handle “the politics.” And it turned out that my lack of energy was not only due to “the politics.” I had cancer. So I gave up the plot.

Masaccio_-_The_Expulsion_from_the_Garden_of_Eden_(detail)_-_WGA14180The last season I had the plot, I was so resentful and rebellious toward TPTB that I quietly planted a blackberry plant, just a single stem about six inches tall. This was not allowed in the garden, because raspberries and blackberries supposedly are invasive and grow into other people’s plots. I “knew” this, whether or not it is true, because TPTB criticized someone else who planted a raspberry bush. So I planted the little sprout in the farthest corner of my plot away from other people’s plots. And promptly someone snipped the little plant down to the ground. I consoled myself with the thought that I had not been the only gardener to have been bullied by TPTB.

I still wish I could have one of those blackberry plants again. You see, it was a Doyle’s Thornless Blackberry, which the sellers claim are amazingly prolific. I wanted one because although tomatoes are excellent, particularly Sun Golds, they have to be planted every year. A blackberry bush is perennial. And while most blackberry plants are full of thorns, Doyle’s are, as the name says, thornless.

handful of Doyle's blackberriesDoyle’s Thornless Blackberry plants, say the proprietors, produce gallons of sweet, juicy fruit, and grow in every state. They are the plant of dreams. If the sellers are telling the truth, they are to blackberries what Sun Golds are to tomatoes. The proprietors have been promoting them heavily in recent weeks, because they can be planted in the autumn, and this is why at this time these plants have brought back my memories of when the garden was an innocent pleasure.

Growing one’s own food has a certain appeal to the imagination. The very idea of stepping out of one’s door and being able to pick food is Edenic. I remember walking up to my plot early in the morning and stuffing sweet, ripe Sun Golds into my face as fast as I could down them, and still being able to fill containers to take to work. Chains of twenty-five tomatoes would hang down from the six-foot plants like strings of Christmas jingle bells. If I had a Doyle’s Thornless Blackberry bush, I could do that again, but with fruit.

This sort of lusciousness is why community gardens normally have a years-long waiting list. But I dream bigger than a community garden plot has space. I wish I could have fruit trees and nut trees, berries and grapes, a bounty raining down on me, a cornucopia to supply all the neighbors.

But that is almost as much work as being a farmer, because essentially it is being a farmer. And given the amount of land that takes, it is not going to happen in an urban setting. I don’t want to live in the country, anyway; I am a city girl who wants to go to the diner across the street for my sub sandwich on the way home.

But if I had a community garden plot without “the politics,” I would grow a Doyle’s Thornless Blackberry bush. If you have a little space in your yard and there are no TPTB like a homeowners’ association telling you not to, I want you to try growing a Doyle’s Thornless Blackberry plant for your own mouthful of Eden before the fall of the human race.


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