Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Home Grown Tomatoes

Jaune Flamme Tomatoes

That's the title of one of my favorite Guy Clark songs, and also one of my next projects. I love the whole home gardening process, from getting the soil ready to eating and sharing the fruits of my labor.

This year I'll be growing quite a few heirloom vegetables. Cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, bell peppers, and seven kinds of tomatoes. I have to say that although my expectations for superior taste are pretty high, I don't think I'll be disappointed. The words "garden variety" have often been used together as a pejorative, identifying something as common, unremarkable. Truth be told the roots of the phrase are actually referring to heirloom plants. They haven't been hybridized and over-bred to withstand the rigors of shipping, so they are much more tender and almost always tastier than the fruits and vegetables you can buy in a store.
I've grown heirloom vegetables before, along with various hybrid varieties. The heirlooms always tasted better.

I'll be growing organically, of course. My post-appropriate named friend, Mark Beets, has a new blog and a shared opinion of the holier-than-thou attitude of many of our celebrities when it comes to saving the earth, but there are many opportunities for the financially challenged among us to do good things for the environment, and ourselves, on a budget. Planting an organic garden is a great step, and a lot cheaper than buying produce at Whole Foods.

My first "organic" garden was when I was sixteen. I use the quotation marks because I was living in Port Neches, TX at the time. Port Neches is in the Golden Triangle area of the state, so named because of the large petrochemical complex that was in my little corner of the world. I steadfastly refused to use chemical fertilizers and insecticides, not realizing at the time how polluted the air, water, and soil was all around me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Kind of Traveler are You?

I've got to admit that I have this romanticized self-image of the weary world traveler, making my way through the crowded market streets in a foreign land, chastising the vendors in their native tongue for trying to take advantage of my supposed naivete.

The truth is, I enjoy the experience so much that I'm actually the goofy, wide-eyed small-town guy with the stupid grin plastered across his mug as I take in the sights and sounds of a new place. It's all I can do not to point my finger, and in a loud voice say, "Wow! Look at that!" In other words, I'm a lot less Indiana Jones and a lot more Jethro Bodine.

I love to travel. Some chemical thing happens to me the moment I start planning a trip, and my brain is flooded with endorphins and adrenaline as I go from those first tentative steps at the beginning of my journey to the last, exhausted mile of the road back home. I'm happier, more alert, more alive. And although I like to pretend how cool I am, I'm sure I come across as Jethro, pretending to be a double-naught spy.