Seed catalogs ought to come in the mail in brown paper wrappers. That’s how shameless they are: gardener porn. Growing season aside (I start my spring garden in February), it’s a devilish trick to send such prurient reminders when we gardeners are at our most vulnerable.
It’s 25 degrees outside this morning, and the garden is shriveled and still. There are no sleek curves, deep hues, or tantalizing perfumes of a basil plant at its most succulent; no juice dripping down your fingers from that perfectly ripe strawberry you have just plucked; no enormous yellow squash blossoms opening themselves to the honeybees’ promise of fertility. But the seed companies have deliberately stirred my desires. And shortly I will give in to my cravings and order more seeds than I will ever have room to plant, ever. And it will feel good.
So it begins in the bleak midwinter (as a great poet of the sensual, Christina Rosetti, once wrote), when the earth stands hard as iron and water like a stone. Shockingly vivid catalog covers assault the eye — ripe, round, bulging fruit, glossy vegetables in colors so vibrant that they couldn’t possibly be found in nature. But they really get you when you flip open the first couple of pages to the new offerings for the year, in all their exotic color, flavor, and texture — the bluer berry, the sweeter tomato, the plumper pea. And all I want to do is hold them in my hot, trembling hand.
And then there’s the prose that is purpler than a pingtung eggplant — a pepper is a “cayenne hottie”; a beet has “sweet, juicy flesh”; a cabbage says come hither with its “pure white ribs.”
Are you panting yet? A little feverish? Here — here’s an order form. I’ll give you your privacy. Go ahead. It’s perfectly natural, and everybody does it.