This Side of the Pond – May 23

By Sarah Pridgeon

Sharing my attempts to adapt to my newfound climes with you usually involves first accepting my own ineptitude and then steeling myself to admit it. I have, for example, already confessed to my inability to stalk wild animals and my baffled efforts to steer a vehicle in the snow.
This week, however, I am forced to apologize for having quite the opposite problem. It turns out that I’m a bit too good at gardening and the onset of summer may mean I’m about to destroy the world with my trowel.
As the snow finally melted last spring, my dad-in-law regarded my lily-white skin and permanent sunglasses thoughtfully and concluded that I should be spending more time in the great outdoors. I protested fairly strongly because, although I like a spot of sunshine just as much as the next person, there were chores to be done and writings to be written and both of those things must be performed under the protection of a roof.
Eventually, he came up with a cunning plan to woo me into the yard. He promised me my very own garden: a place where I could grow all the vegetables I could possibly eat with my own, still-a-bit-too-fair hands.
At first, it went swimmingly. We built a fence to keep the beady eyes of the deer at bay and my eyes were opened to the wisdom of using rusted metal to blend my garden with its surrounds.
We removed each rock and blemish from the earth and tilled the land in preparation, then planted beets and cabbages in neat rows. We installed tomato plants with an admirable family heritage and purchased cucumbers, squash and peppers to live beside them.
Twice a day, I pottered outside to inspect my budding plants and gently water them with a bucket, nurturing each tiny leaf while visualizing it covered with ranch dressing. I mourned the loss of my cucumbers when an unexpected frost arrived and took extra care with the survivors.
As my plants grew, the watering process evolved into playtime with hoses, during which idyllic quarter of an hour I would drench my vegetable rows until the whole garden resembled a paddy field.
I rejoiced when the first of my crops were ready to harvest. On the advice of more seasoned gardeners, I dutifully snapped the ends from my beans before washing, blanching and freezing each one, collecting an ever-increasing pile of vegetable fare to see us through the winter.
I presented overflowing bowls of lettuce at dinner time, topped with enough tomatoes to feed a family of four for a decade. I marveled at how attractive and flavorful the fruits of my labors were… until everything began to go horribly wrong.
The first radishes looked as delicious as all that had come before it. They were almost worthy of the cover of a gardening magazine. They really did look wonderful, but they were actually fireballs in disguise.
It turned out that, somehow, I had grown a crop of radishes that were utterly tasteless yet at the same time so fiery that a single bite caused my jaw to fight desperately for permission to drop off. When a monstrosity of a radish unearthed itself that was almost as large as my husband’s hand, I began to wonder if my garden was preparing to fight back, and/or take over the world. Possibly by squashing everything else in it.
My beans were the next to rebel. Though I harvested the ripest of them every single day, one particular specimen evaded my notice. By the time I discovered it, that bean was more than two feet long and had begun to creep ominously towards the back door.
I can only speculate as to what it planned to do once it got there, but I’m certain that mutant bean had nefarious intentions and its comrades were preparing to follow suit. My summer squash soon joined them, growing to proportions that had definitely not been indicated on the packet. Even my lettuce developed a leather-like consistency that implied it was suiting up for battle.
It’s possible that this is how the apocalypse is going to begin: in my vegetable garden, through the medium of disgruntled shrubbery. My squash plants could very well be Triffids in disguise and my tomatoes may be time bombs with purpose.
And so I am writing this post by way of an apology, before the inevitable happens and this year’s harvest turns on us all. I am sorry for inflicting the mutant vegetable army on the world and for whatever consequences my selfish gardening has. I have no choice, I can’t help but start the process anew – a fresh salad has too many healthful benefits and grilled summer squash tastes really, really good.