I find myself visiting my parents in Southwest Florida at the moment. Like almost all the homes, there is a screened in patio and pool, palm trees looming and tall coconut trees lining the roads. A canal with docked boats is at the end of the back garden and light glimmers on the surface. It is hot…very hot. But also very humid. Despite the heat, there is no shortage of water.
As a result, life abounds in every corner. It gets me thinking about how abundantly food grows in different places and how foolish it seems to spend $1.50 for one avocado when we tree in a suitable neighborhood will produce hundreds. As they ripen, you might have to fight off a few vultures to get at the goods, but there is ultimately plenty for all. In addition to the prolific avocado tree in this one back yard, a mango tree is right next to it, with hundreds of fruits forming, their heavy weight pulling down the fibers that hold them. They look like smooth heavy stones on a rope. A mulberry tree produces long dark fruits that are sweet and tangy…a dream for jams and ice creams, or served fresh on some yogurt in the morning.
There are two kinds of fig trees, sprouting their deliciously sweet inverted flowers. The banana tree has a bark that looks much like the exterior of a browning banana. After the crop of bananas is picked, a new shoot erupts adjacent to the last stalk. The old one should be trimmed, and as it rots, it provides nutrition to the new shoot. My dad planted smoking hot chili peppers. There are so many they must be dried and saved for later. Pomegranates grow at the edge of the garden on a large tree. There is lemongrass, lemon verbena, a small field of basil around the base of a fragrant, flowering tree and a Madagascar vanilla orchid climbs up one of the palms. Though it grows, its companion bee is not present here and it is quite difficult to pollinate with a cotton swab.
All in this one space along with many other flowering bushes and shrubs, there is enough fruit to share with the neighbors, can, freeze for later and enjoy fresh as soon as the crop ripens.
Many people only associate food with a grocery store, but so much can be grown and enjoyed on a small strip of land in the right season. Why not go outside and pick your own delicious tomatoes before a meal rather than buy ones from a grocery story that are probably picked far too soon?
A dove has built her nest atop the rain gutter, patiently warming her eggs and cautiously on the lookout for birds trying to steal them. On the other side of the garden a spider that looks a lot like a crab with rose thorns enjoys its grisly lunch of raw dead fly….Not to my taste, but to each his own.