I grew up on a farm. My first job was working in the field and in the garden. By garden, I don't mean the kind I have now, where we mix containers with some small spaces and raised spaces. I mean a garden measured in acres. We also raised calves and hogs, and had access to chickens and fresh eggs, but my great interest was in the ways that plants were turned into produce.
As a nation, we have modernized ourselves to the extent that we are too separated from the food we eat. We think nothing, and I include myself in this, of being just a little put out when the green beans in the grocery are not at their prime or when the tomatoes are hard and tasteless. How could they be otherwise, though, when they have been bred to withstand long transit and still not spoil. They are not in season where we are, so they have to travel.
This is my favorite time of year, however, as we round the last bend of winter toward spring, and new growth begins here, in the gardens and fields. We start with the tender lettuces and radishes and greens that thrive in cooler weather, working our way toward the fruits of summer: sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans, and the like. Local harvest, consumed in season, is the best eating of all.
One of my favorite poems is by William Carlos Williams, a poet who was also a physician. In his poem, "By the Road to the Contagious Hospital," he describes "the stark dignity of entrance" that spring makes in his native New Jersey. The photo above, that moment of spring's entrance, is the best time of year, in my opinion: the moment of renewal.
... from "By the Road to the Contagious Hospital"
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-
Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken