Saturday, April 21, 2007


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (4/17/07)

I knew I was old when one of my sons asked me about the merits of joining AARP. At my 80th family birthday party my other son said, “Gee, Dad, you’re as old as dirt.” Meine Überfrau thought that his remark was offensive, but she doesn’t understand male humor, not knowing that his remark was a sign of admiration and affection. As a matter of fact, I’ve always liked dirt and as a toddler ate it garnished with worms.

However, I feel more like compost which is old stuff decaying into new life. A rich, fertile mix of my life’s memoried debris, such as, a counter-intelligence Sgt/Maj, field hand, ditch digger, college, numerous and varied graduate schools, private investigator, parish minister, college teacher, newspaper columnist, author, backpacked the John Muir Trail, Alaskan shipwrecked, jail bird, psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist, occasional radical, sometime conservative, triple-bypass, “regular old coot,” and gardener, compost seems a better fit than dirt. I still like dirt and worms, just not gastronomically.

Having lived as an adult for two generations, been brushed by death four times, and abided with people as they’ve died, I’ve learned to cut out the crap. Not much matters, but what remains does. My Occam’s Razor has resulted in a belief of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking in faith with God. Gardening is just such a walk. While not an old man’s avocation, gardening is salutary for old people (no “senior citizen” nonsense) because it keeps up the exercise and provides life-extending nourishment.

The walk of faith begins with onions, especially the Hybrid Candy (Allium cepa ). Onions extend the notoriously short growing season in Flagstaff by at least three months. Hardy down to 20° F., onion sets can be planted in March just as daffodils begin to peek from their winter slumbers. Stored, they can be eaten throughout the winter. Besides tasting great, onions are good for what-ails-you, as in heart disease and cancer. An onion a day keeps the doctor away. I have planted 450 onion sets just to be sure.

The next horticultural glory is the beloved globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus,) a thistle of beauty and taste, unlike the notoriously prickly Scotch thistle. Not native to the Colorado Plateau, the globe artichoke can be grown here if the same devotion is used as that required for an equally beloved vegetable, the tomato. If left to flower, the globe artichoke is a delight to the eye with a purple flower of extraordinarily beautiful intensity. If eaten, it is a delight to the palate as well as a tonic for the spirit.

Next on the walk to glory is the Siberian tomato, the Galina (Lycopersicon lycopersicum), a golden cherry tomato of a deliciously complex taste of sweetness and acidity. In addition to that virtue, it is an early producer (59 days.) The fruit seldom gets into the house because various and sundry people eat it off the vine, dust and all.

Close in glory is the Sweet Baby Girl (Lycopersicon lycopersicum ), a prolific producer of clustered bright red, very sweet cherry tomatoes on a compact bush. At 65 days, it is apt for container gardening. Also, the thumbnail-sized Red Currant tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum) is great for salads with its intense flavor. A wild South American tomato the Red Currant works in Flagstaff at 62 days.

A good slicing tomato and great for hamburgers is the Glasnost (Lycopersicon lycopersicum). A large Siberian, it matures at 62 days and, as with the rest of the tomatoes, it supplies prodigious amounts of the antioxidant Lycopene which helps to fend off cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Not forgotten is the beet, the sweetest of all vegetables, especially the "Bull’s Blood" beet (Beta vulgaris) which along with "Burgee’s Golden", "Red Ace", "Detroit Red", and the "Chiogga", is an early producer and a fount of goodness. The beet lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, reduces blood pressure, helps ward of colon and stomach cancer, is colorful, and tastes great with leaves and fruit adding pizzazz.

Having lived this long, I want to live longer, so it's "Go gardener, go!"

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2007

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