Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Let Esculents Abound

Robert Louis Stevenson, To a Gardener:
Friend, in my mountain-side demesne
My plain-beholding, rosy, green
And linnet-haunted garden-ground,
Let still the esculents abound.
Let first the onion flourish there,
Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,
Wine-scented and poetic soul
Of the capacious salad bowl.
Let thyme the mountaineer (to dress
The tinier birds) and wading cress,
The lover of the shallow brook,
From all my plots and borders look.
Nor crisp and ruddy radish, nor
Pease-cods for the child's pinafore
Be lacking; nor of salad clan
The last and least that ever ran
About great nature's garden-beds.
Nor thence be missed the speary heads
Of artichoke; nor thence the bean
That gathered innocent and green
Outsavours the belauded pea.

These tend, I prithee; and for me,
Thy most long-suffering master, bring
In April, when the linnets sing
And the days lengthen more and more
At sundown to the garden door.
And I, being provided thus.
Shall, with superb asparagus,
A book, a taper, and a cup
Of country wine, divinely sup.
Ah, but what kind of onion? Bianca di Maggio? Jaune Paille des Vertus? Red Creole? Yellow of Parma?

What kind of radish? China Rose? Early Scarlet Globe? Jaune d'Or Ovale? Noir Gros Rond d'Hiver? Violet De Gournay?

What kind of asparagus? Precoce d'Argenteuil? Mary Washington?

All of these varieties and more are listed in my favorite wintertime reading, the catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

William Merritt Chase, Still Life with Vegetables

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