Fall is Harvest Time: apples, squash, pumpkins, the last of the lettuces. The Greenmarket in Union Square is a mecca for cooks, both serious and amateur; for photographers, who exclaim over the brilliant colors (causing the farmers to snicker); and for urban wanderers, who wander among the stands and pretend they’re in bucolic-ville.
I go to the Greenmarket several times a week, hoping somehow to instill in Liam and Caleb the awareness that food doesn’t come from Fresh Direct boxes.I’m not sure it’s working (the list of what my children won’t eat is a daily testament to my failure as a mother), but I persist.
This summer, I even went so far as to plant my own vegetables. Three vegetables, to be precise. No, not three types of vegetables, just three vegetables: one pot of carrots (didn’t grow); many pumpkin seeds, which turned into one thriving pumpkin vine for June and July, spawning great thoughts of Halloween carving, until mid-August, when the vines wizened and died, looking much like the legs and feet of the Wicked Witch of the West, post-house collision. And sweet potatoes, which I plant mostly because I like the bright green vines – I twine them around the fence of our terrace in an effort to make things look a little less institutional.
(Yes, we have that most precious of New York commodities: outside space. Across the hall from our apartment is a concrete fenced-in terrace that runs the length of the building; it gets sun until about noon at the peak of summer, as well as a steady stream of noise and bus exhaust.)
The vines grew and grew and I kind of forgot about the potatoes down there in the dirt, until I was cleaning up the flower pots this weekend, doing an urban version of readying the farm for winter. On the 15th floor, winter preparation involves throwing away the dead plants, saving the potting soil in plastic bags to be reused for next year, and taping black garbage bags over the two rose bushes, in hopes that they might bloom again next year (I’ve got my doubts).
But as I cleared out the long window box with the vines in it, I discovered that voila! I had grown two potatoes! The boys were amazed – and a little horrified by the coiled length of reddish vine I pulled from the soil.
I had some vague doubts about actually eating these things – god only knows what kind of New York city toxins filtered into the soil – but I figured whatever it was wouldn’t kill us in such relatively small doses. Besides, whatever was going into the dirt was going into our lungs every day anyway, and we’re not dead yet, as they say in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (a comment that comes verbatim from Daniel Defoe’s Journal of a Plague Year. Swear to god).
So we peeled the potatoes, sliced ’em up, and made french fries! They look pretty good, right? Nicely crispy, a little sprinkling of Maldon sea salt…
The boys each ate about two and then Caleb asked if we had any tater tots.
What’s the growing season on a tater tot, I wonder?