When I was a kid, my father would periodically decide to plant a vegetable garden. He didn’t plant one every year, and he didn’t even plant it in the same spot in our suburban yard each year. But, when he did, it always meant we’d soon face the prospect of weeding, watering, and eating things we’d never heard of before.
The first year, he disassembled our swing set so that he could plant his crops and, needless to say, this didn’t endear us to his farming endeavors. In subsequent years, though, he’d find a place along some ratty-looking shrubs, dig up the sod, and stick some stakes in the dirt. Then he’d plant lots of seeds, most of which would grow into the mysterious produce we’d later come to know as “slimy okra,” “crazy kale,” and “ugly kohlrabi.”
Why, I wondered, couldn’t he just be a normal dad and plant normal things like carrots, corn, and tomatoes? Why couldn’t he just leave the science experiments to Dr. Frankenstein? Nonetheless, despite the still-apt monikers, I learned to love the varied look, feel, and taste of vegetables rarely found on the plates of typical Midwestern kids during the Vietnam war era.
Today, I find myself smiling as I think back on those gardens. And I’m grateful to have been part of a generation that was required to clean our plates, no matter what kind of mysterious produce found its way there.