Sounds like the name of a dish: Sunset Okra Surprise, like something a southern chef might have concocted. It’s what delighted us yesterday at dusk.
We were hoping for a post-supper, post-Jeopardy wave of calm to wash over us but no, we knew we were antsy and discontent. A brisk walk along the river might cure our malaise, we thought. Before shoving off we cruised around the garden a little, reviewing the plants. Sometimes I wonder how I muster the patience a gardener needs waiting for the garden to produce. I’m not good at waiting. Tending too often toward being antsy and discontented, toward performing tasks in what our daughter calls go-mode, I sometimes get impatient with how slowly plants grow. Seed packets tell the story: tomatoes take 70 to 85 days from seed to harvest, bush beans, 50 to 65, winter squash, 90 to 105 and so it goes. What a shame I can’t stand radishes; they win the seed to plate race at 30 to 45 days. I’m trying to learn to quell my inner hasty but that process, like gardening, is pretty slow. Such irony!
Back to our pre-walk garden tour, it had rained that day and everything was fresh and green and vibrant. We saw lush bush beans, their bright purple blossoms peeking out from the midst of the green. We saw some remaining lettuces and endive, leafy reds and greens we’ll soon be eating. We saw my new strawberry pot dotted all around with bright green strawberry plants. Oh, and look at the lovely okra plants, so rich, so full of leaves.
And, wait a minute, what’s this? Mrs. Gardener’s sharp eye caught what her husband’s missed: actual okra! Why was I surprised? Last year, I planted the okra late and didn’t get any until well into July. Not only that, the spring garden harvest though nearing its end, is still in progress. Most, though not all, of our bushels of lettuce have gone to that great tossed salad in the sky (by way of our grateful palates), and the peas are finished. We enjoyed turnips, now gone, and a few beets before deer marauders plundered the rest. The chard will continue all summer if I keep it watered and the spinach was dismal, yielding only one small mess. Since summer crops are not quite even adolescents yet, still youthful, showing fresh, green promise but no fruit, I wasn’t even looking for anything. Finding four serviceable okra was a real treat. We picked them then and there to set aside for an after-walk snack.
Four fried okra, perfectly tender, delectably sweet, were just the right snack after walking off our extra energy. I am thrilled the okra are producing already and am conjuring in my mind’s eye the plates of fried okra, bowls of okra-tomato stew and even jars of pickled okra we will enjoy. I see these four as the vanguard of a great okra army whose advance I eagerly anticipate.
And how funny that I was so busy being impatient waiting for the garden to produce, I completely missed its first summer crop production!