As I type this, I am nibbling on a piece of bread made with zucchini that I picked from my friend’s garden, mere hours after peaches from their tree provided the basis of the smoothie I had for breakfast.
To my mind, there is no more perfect fruit than the peach. A nice, crisp apple is wonderful, but given the choice I’d prefer it in a pie. Drinking a glass of orange juice is a whole sight easier than peeling the fruit, and while I’d never turn down raw, fresh pineapple, I also like to cook it up in a curry or stir-fry.
Peaches, though – peaches are best fresh and sliced, eaten either plain or, on a hot day, over ice cream. Don’t bother offering me peach pie, with its too-sweet sugar glaze. I’ve heard you can make peach soup, but what’s the point? I compromised this morning, making a peach smoothie, because blending all of my breakfast ingredients into a drink I could gulp was the quickest way to get out the door.
My friends who own the garden and peach tree have given me permission to share the produce I harvest. I’ve offered peaches to a couple of friends, warning them that they will have to peel the peaches and inspect them for worms. One friend all but turned green at the thought; two other friends welcomed the fresh fruit, bugs and all. I think those of us who grew up with a garden understand that insects are a natural part of the natural world that produces our food.
When we were in high school, my brother brought home a city-raised friend who walked into my mom’s vegetable garden and was amazed to find that green beans grow on bushes. I remember laughing at his ignorance, but more and more these days I hear of children and young adults who don’t know anything about the process by which their fruit, vegetables and meat arrive on the grocery store shelves. They have no experience with the cycle of growing things: preparing the soil, waiting for the weather to warm enough to plant the seeds, watering the garden regularly. One chore I hated was killing tomato horn worms – large, green, firm-bodied worms that chewed leaves down to the stem. We also had to squish the yellow eggs of bean bugs – a type of spotted beetle similar to a ladybug except it was light orange. If we missed any of the eggs, which were laid on the underside of the leaves, they hatched into a blob of a caterpillar covered with spikes that could defoliate a plant, preventing it from producing fruit.
These experiences, I think, make me more attentive to the parables Jesus tells about sowing and harvesting. When Christ speaks of seed that falls on good ground, I understand that must be soil that has been tilled, weeded and watered, and that it must continue to be tended if the seed is to bear fruit.
Sharing the fruit of my friend’s garden also reminded me of another lesson. When I brought a dozen ripe tomatoes into the office, one of my coworkers grabbed one, took a big bite, grinned and said, “Thank you!” I smiled back, and was reminded that several years ago, when I undertook the SNAP Challenge to learn what it’s like to live on the $4 a day provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (colloquially known as food stamps), the recommendation was that I not accept produce from my friends’ garden because many impoverished people don’t have access to homegrown fruits and vegetables. They and their children may never taste a homegrown peach or know the joy of biting into a fresh, juicy tomato pulled off the plant only a few hours before.
Harvesting my friend’s garden, enjoying its produce and sharing it with my coworkers are reminders of why we must protect our common home so that it can continue to sustain us.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.