My orto (vegetable garden) is a thing of beauty, but I take no credit for that.
It has generations of contadino wisdom behind it.
When I arrived in Umbria in May for the summer, the peas and favas that now delight us at table were already planted. Ditto for the lettuce, basil, parsley, beans, artichokes, onions, cabbages, chard, cukes, zukes, and garlic.
I will, however, take credit for my nutty experiments with rainbow-hued chard seeds, the ribes (red currant) stalks from my friend that I cluelessly but optimistically stuffed into the ground, and the 6-foot, bolted and blue-flowering radicchio that I stubbornly refuse to pull up despite the head scratching of Farmer G.
But then again, he laughed when I stuck into the ground the prunings from the roses, several of which have turned into sturdy new plants.
He recently came by to stake the tomatoes and pole beans with bamboo stakes grown and sharpened by himself. I, a former luster after gadgets from Gardeners Supply, have unbounded admiration for them and for the multi-twigged dead branches he uses as pea supports.
Pretty soon he will be laughing at me for trying to prolong the fava season by not pulling up what he considers plants that have already done their duty.
Of course he's right, but we hoarders are a stubborn lot. Even though the leaves may be too bitter to eat, I think the flowers from my giant radicchio plants of yesteryear add a nice, albeit wacky touch to the otherwise disciplined space.
And what's that peeking out from those favas that he told me to rip out?
My old eyes see something that looks like a new baby plant poking out from several of the old fava stumps, and even a fresh new plant complete with several young favas whose appearance cheers me no end.