What better to do on a sunny afternoon than get dirt under the fingernails? I was long overdue for a good romp in the dirt, and the food bank beds were in desperate shape. Some cover crop I’d chopped down weeks earlier was growing back. Curly kale was sending up flower stalks and the mustard was fading. So I turned earth. I pulled up leeks to make way for new crops, dug out the invading spearmint roots, then left the soil to warm in the sun.

Over in our private patch (as I now think of it) the overwintered vegetables were delivering a little bit of redemption after a tough winter in which I mainly seemed to be growing material for compost. The collards are now hitting generous dimensions. The garlic greens are fat and still growing. Even stuff that was part of the clean up, like the sandy outer leaves of lettuces and raddichio proved to be edible if not exactly pretty. But no one could tell otherwise in the evening’s pasta of raddichio, white beans, and rosemary. Or with our first garden salad of the spring, this one coming to the table months ahead of last year’s.

Garden vegetables in Seattle this time of year are sort of like airplane food — we eat them because they’re the best thing going at the moment. Overwintering never seemed worth it until just now, when I realized we’re still weeks from a steady lettuce and spinach supply and two months from peas, new beets, and carrots. Even if eating home grown vegetables at every meal is a hazy dream of summer days, at least we’ve started eating from our own earth again. That’s a happy thing.

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