“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD; the LORD will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress,but still produces fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7,8
Every evening, as the sun is setting, I water our little vegetable garden. There’s something almost poetic about the whole scene: The wide and beautiful Arizona sky, the cooling desert (mind you, it is still well over 100 degrees), and a lizard that climbs to the top of the house, turns toward the setting sun and raises his little head to bid the sun good night (I’m serious, he does this every night!). And usually, as I water the thirsty and struggling veggies, I think: “If I could be any vegetable in the garden, I would choose…?”
For a while, I definitely wanted to be an eggplant. Beautiful and bright purple or white THICK skin, great in so many Greek recipes, cool spongy insides, so uniquely shaped, and coming from such a beautiful white and purple flower! But then, they started to attract a lot of ants. And the eggplant bed is now overcome with ants of all shapes and sizes. Then to top it off, as the heat got hotter, the eggplant got bitterer. And bitter is the last thing I want to be! So I changed my mind.
Next I thought I’d like to be a tomato. I mean who wouldn’t want to be a tomato?! Everyone thinks you’re a vegetable, but you’re really a fruit. Tomatoes are super-versatile. They can be made into sauce, eaten raw, stewed, diced, and canned! But, alas, the tomato plants I have are very temperamental: they are NOT bearing much fruit at all! I think we’ve only had 3 tomatoes! And to top it off, they attract these crazy looking caterpillars that in the course of one night completely destroy the plants. Yes, this happened here a few weeks ago – 7 GIANT green caterpillars chomped through 4 of the tomato plants in the matter of hours. When I finally spotted them, they were suctioned on to the plants, chewing greedily! I had to pluck them off, and what a hard time I had prying them loose! I decided that the last thing I want is to be easy prey to such caterpillars (which seemed so akin to temptation and sin)! So I decided that I wouldn’t like to be a tomato after all.
Then there are my two quite pathetic yellow squash plants. I must have planted them too late, cause they are the strangest squash plants I have ever had. They get these gorgeous HUGE blooms, then a little yellow squash, that remains just that: a little, tiny yellow squash that just dies on the vine. Yikes, I don’t want to be that kind of plant!
That leaves the only other living vegetable in the garden: Swiss Chard. My last choice? Yep. I mean, it’s just a ‘green’! BORING. No gorgeous fruit to brag about. And no flowers! Ah, but it has many high points I’ve begun to observe: It grows straight and steady. Forget to water? No problem. It stands as erect and resilient as always. It is impervious to insects it seems. No caterpillars bother it. No ants climb on it. It stands in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, with neighboring veggies falling to the right and the left, undaunted. Beating sun and 115 degree heat, it seems to say, with humble and confident surrender, ‘bring it on.’ The leaves are consistently a brilliant dark green and delicious. The stems with the varying color add just enough personality to keep it interesting. Cut it early and you have salad. Leave it grow till it is huge and it is not bitter. Saute it, blend it in a smoothie, throw it in the crock pot, add it to soup, plop it in a big pot of beans…and call it supper. Nutritious and delicious, albeit largely unknown Swiss Chard.