Something happened to me recently that made me yearn for gardening. I had been standing inside the house, sheltered from the heat, when Lucy and Sam* called me. They wanted help pulling out weeds in the yard. I wasn’t too keen because I had just taken a shower, but I went. As I stooped to the ground, Sam began explaining to me how to do it. I listened, but the truth is I knew everything he said. I knew even more, in fact, but I didn’t tell him. I just crouched low, and pushed my finger into the ground right beneath one of the plants. The soil easily gave way. And my emotions gave way too.
At that moment I felt a strong yearning for gardening. Even though it was an easy task, pulling out those little plants gave me so much satisfaction. The feeling of damp earth crumbling in my fingers, with its absorbing smell, just set my mind adrift. I felt withdrawal toward the world I had now grown accustomed to – TV, internet, loads of work, shopping. It just felt a little foreign. But there, crouched by the fence, I was discovering a world that felt much more familiar. A world I’d known too well.
Nearly everyone I knew in Zimbabwe had a vegetable garden. In particular, everyone grew chomolia, a vegetable which is virtually part of our staple meal. In all kinds of residential areas – farm compounds, industrial compounds, high density and low density suburbs, rural areas – there are gardens filled with chomolia. People have it nearly every day, usually cooked together with beef or some other meat. During hard times, it’s the vegetable to fall back on as it is the cheapest and grows throughout the year.
We had a garden too but, but I didn’t enjoy gardening as much in the beginning. I did it only because it was a task assigned to me by my parents. I was also not too keen because we never seemed to have any fortune when it came to growing chomolia. Our neighbors seemed to have magic powers that made theirs grow, but they never shared those powers with us. Looking back, perhaps we just had bad soils. Nonetheless, we weren’t successful and it annoyed me a great deal since I was the virtual caretaker, alongside my mom. Although I would love to say that I slowly grew to like gardening over time, that wasn’t the case. I began to like it almost instantly.
When I started growing shallots (scallion, spring onion), my gardening world changed completely. I had finally found something that I could grow well. I would take those tiny little bulbs, which looked bone dry and dead, and bury them in well watered soil. In a couple of days I would see green little sprouts poking through the earth. I found this phenomenon very fascinating, and it caused me to become an ever enthusiastic grower. Plowing the earth with a pick and a garden fork suddenly became an enjoyable exercise. Sometimes it was even therapeutic. All because I couldn’t wait to see those shallots grow. And grow they did.
You see, shallots grow fast. I would always look at them early in the morning as I left for school, and sometimes it looked as if they had grown a little when I returned in the evening. And every day it felt as if they grew a little more. Sometimes I would stare at them like I was observing a distant world. The experience was especially surreal during early summer mornings. There was the smell of fresh, damp soil, and the chipping of the birds as the sun’s life-giving envelope spectacularly emerged from the horizon. I would be crouching there next to the little creatures, poking through the soft earth around them with my fingers. I cannot fully explain the feeling, but I can recognize it whenever I experience it again.
Let me know if you love growing vegetables too. Or if you miss it 🙂