a cooling rain

The heat arrived this week—a three-day wave of liquid sun and humidity that hauled the eggplants and peppers into a growth spurt. The timing was perfect; everything is established in the garden and ready for prodigious growth. And you know the heat is real when the peppers blossom before mid-June.

But these pulses of heat have been laced with afternoon and evening showers. Tonight, a massive cell of thunderstorms grew angry just east of here, spawning tornado warnings in a community called Last Chance. We caught the torn edge of the storm—a 20 minute rain that cooled the neighborhood nicely.

Its effect on the garden was remarkable. Nothing had wilted on this warm day, as the garden will do some July afternoons, but when the rain soaked leaf and soil alike, things were visibly refreshed. Colors deepened, aromas flourished and blended, and life surged.

The strawberry patch was positively glowing in yellow sun. It happens that the strawberries are peaking. None is bigger than the tip of my thumb but the flavor is crazy—tart and clean and vibrant, like a wild strawberry ought to be.

The point here is that this particular flavor can only be had for, at most, about ten days a year. These berries will be good just that long, and while their arc will carry them through the end of the month, they won't taste better than they do this very moment. None ever make it to the kitchen; I feed them directly to neighborhood kids, dinner guests, my wife, myself.

The pole beans are climbing, as is the lazarus vine—a grapevine I thought was dead. It wasn't, but I only learned that when I found it growing out of the garbage can where I'd tossed its main root weeks earlier. It's now in its third summer, and I'm convinced each spring that winter has killed it. Then . . .

Things are kicking into high gear. I Butcher Boy tomato sports nine—count 'em—nine blossoms on one stem alone.

It's true that a storm like the one that slid east of here tonight could just as well sweep through this neighborhood of mine. Rain is good but wind and hail can wreck a patch of vegetables in a swift, thrashing minute. What happens, happens. But meanwhile, it's good to appreciate what's growing and fruiting, one day at a time.