One of my favorite parts of working on the farm is getting to watch the plants mature, especially the ones I've never seen before. Take the eggplant, for instance. When I arrived, they were tiny green sprouts, poking up out of a wide square bed. I had no idea how big they would grow, or what they would look like, or where the hell the eggplants would come from. Every morning, the first thing I would do was stop by the eggplant, and each time the plants would have grown a little more. They looked like giant pepper plants with darker stems and wider leaves. Soon, there were flowers: about 1 inch in diameter, with 5 pointed petals and a bright yellow center. They grew downward off of the step, at the intersection of stem and leaf, and opened large and flat as though stretching. This was about the same time that the peppers started flowering, little white flowers with softer smaller petals that grew upwards against the stem and then curved down so that the flowers faced the ground. Every day I watched more petals open. Finally, I came in on a Monday in July, and – you guessed it – there was a tiny baby of an eggplant dangling from the stem of a wilted flower! It was smooth and round and such a bright pastel purple that it looked utterly strange in the garden. (Within a few days there were also baby peppers, but, being green, they were significantly less exciting). As the eggplants continued to form, it turned out that all of the similar-looking plants were actually different varieties, producing very a whole range of strange-looking eggplants – large black ‘Italian’ ones, pastel purple ‘Indian’ ones and long white ‘fairytale’ ones. Before I knew it there were hundreds of eggplants, dangling like jewels from the thick, squat plants, exquisitely beautiful. Beautiful, that is, until the next harvest day, when I spent an hour bending over in the sun picking every last ripe one.
Now it is the peppers that have taken over the stage of wondrous newness. They are just beginning to turn colors – red and orange and yellow. Everyday I come in and there are a few more bright spots in the long green rows. There’s something particularly exciting and alluring about bright fruits in the garden. At least until it’s time to pick them, that is.