You can't have missed the drifts of oak pollen so thick that you can kick them into little piles. You may even be suffering terrible allergies. The pollen had been annoying me, until one windy day when I looked up and saw the lush upper story of oak-trees in our neighborhood undulating, swaying, thrashing, in gusts and swells of varying strength and direction. With each thrust one way or the other, a translucent, sulphur-colored wave of pollen could be seen making its way from one tree to its neighbors. The air was thick with the co-mingling dust from all of these oaks, the trees themselves yellow-green with their flowers and newly emerging leaves. It was an unbelievably powerful sight; nature's incredible design is blatant and undeniable.
Coincidentally, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring was playing on my car radio. I'm not kidding.
What does this tree-orgy have to do with food? Everything. Life comes from food. Life depends on food. Reproduction depends on food. The availability of food depends on how successfully the food itself can reproduce, and ultimately, on how well it can be sustained. The ability to sustain is naturally given to those with the best strength and vitality in a given environment. The strength and vitality comes from recycled life. This windy spring day in Tallahassee demonstrated the power of natural order, reminded me that artificial meddling and control can't match what comes naturally. That is why things that grow in the same region taste right together. That is why foods that are grown naturally, foods produced in the right place, foods that mature naturally, taste better.
It's also why I'm having a hard time establishing an edible garden in my hot, humid, mostly-shady Tallahassee neighborhood. Spring is a deceptive time because all of our plants are growing rapidly, using a tremendous amount of energy in the race for establishment. Everything looks beautiful. By July and August, the tired plants lack the strength and vigor to fight off the pests and diseases that flourish in those wet, hot months. One local farmer told me that August is Tallahassee's winter. Last year, the leaf-hoppers and white-fly sucked my herbs dry (they're already off to another good start this year). Aphids are on my last-of-the-season kale, mustard, and arugula. I'm trying to build better soil and work with our local nature to restore some sort of balance -- it's a steep learning curve, and I am utterly humbled to the farmers and gardeners here who work with nature to produce beautiful, delicious edible treasures. Any advice here? Maybe mixed with a little sympathy?