Shouts heard ‘round the garden

I ate my first nasturtium of the summer today. My kids and I were out under the maples, sitting on a sheet with our friends from out of town, playing Apples to Apples.

It’s been years since I first saw nasturtium plants, which were potted on the deck of a bed and breakfast where we honeymooned. The innkeeper snipped a few from beneath the umbrella leaves and placed them on top of something. An omelet? A breakfast salad? The heft of its flavor – all that pepper from a few petals! – was astonishing and not entirely welcome. I’m not such a one for spice. But the novelty of eating flowers was too much. I ate another and a few the next morning, too.

We’re growing them this year, right behind the bolting greens. The flowers, nonexistent a week ago, bob imperturbably in the shade of the round leaves. They’re multi-hued, I’d forgotten that. The familiar bright orange bloom I ate could just have easily been rain slicker yellow or another yellow, so soft it’s almost dimpled.

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Despite the grow-and-grow appearance of the nasturtiums, the rest of the garden is in a state of slight alarm. Or perhaps celebration. Flowers are in all stages at once, budding, blooming and dying together, on the same stem. Clusters of raspberries contain green, golden and rotting fruits. All is going to seed. All is breaking through the soil. All the plants jump and twist, in their prime.

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The problem with winter isn’t the lack of visible expressions of life but the lack of visual confirmation of the life cycle itself. All is suspended, in question. The lean season isn’t so much an analogy for death as a vacuum.

But summer is one, big, long confirmation. Over and over. Loud and long and sustained. This is how it goes, we hear. There is germination and life and then the spinach leaves are harvested or the pea flowers scorched by the sun or an overripe cherry tomato, impossible to see through the aggressive foliage, falls to the garden bed, already decomposing.

Last year, I read this post at Talk of Tomatoes about pickling nasturtium pods to make your own capers. But I didn’t remember that until I picked that bloom today and shook off the pepper blast. We may eat a heap of them, all told, but I know more than one bloom will shrivel before making it to a salad. I’ll only have enough pods to make a tiny batch but if I’m able to pull it off, it will be the ideal, pantried reminder of the shouts outside.


3 thoughts on “Shouts heard ‘round the garden

  1. Beautiful! My nasturtiums haven’t bloomed yet. But, for some strange reason, we’re having (and enjoying!) Seattle-type weather this year. That may explain the delay.

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