Mother Nature has a good laugh

Published 11:08 am Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Before finding an open staff writer position with the Shelby County Reporter, I worked as an intern for Oxmoor House Books in Birmingham. Oxmoor House publishes all Southern Living and Cooking Light cookbooks, along with a number of other brands. The more recipes I edited, the hungrier I grew to begin my own cooking legacy.

I decided my first step would be to grow my own herb garden, as any true cook knows that fresh herbs are much preferred to the dried variety. I told my botany-loving husband that I wanted to begin our balcony herb garden in November of last winter, much to his consternation. Unbeknownst to me, it is a horribly illogical idea to start growing anything when ice can cover the streets in an instant and temperatures drop to unseemly lows.

First, we filled our tiny one-bedroom apartment living room with herbs in pots. Not surprisingly, my 17-pound cat decided the herbs looked tasty and demolished most of my mint plant. Next, our herb plants developed horrible cases of pests. We scrambled to rid our apartment of gnats, white flies and spider mites.

Few of our herbs lasted the cold months, but when the weather finally began to turn, we returned our plants to our sunny balcony and bid them good luck. Amazingly enough, they began to flourish.

Our editor, Jan Griffey, looks back fondly on a time when readers would send in pictures of interesting produce, and I would like to propose a resurrection of this tradition. We’ve already had a few Shelby County farmers send in pictures or stop by with their extraordinary produce. A few weeks ago, I spent a morning in Pea Ridge taking pictures of Gary and Carole Thompson’s large, golden watermelon. This past Monday, a local farmer stopped by our office with a 135-pound watermelon, and our city editor, Neal Wagner, recently enjoyed some “mammoth” tomatoes in Pelham.

If you’ve discovered a fruit or vegetable with an odd characteristic or, even more oddly, resembles someone or something, please feel free to send pictures of the grower and the produce to us.

As we live in a wonderfully lush area of the country, farmers, both local and commercial, seem to be overrun with produce this year. If you’d like to share your findings with our community, please let us brag about your findings for you.

Christine Boatwright is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 16.