Few things taste as sweet as a ripe tomato I've just picked on a sunny Saturday morning at the University of Oregon's Urban Farm. Taking a break from turning a potato bed, I lean on my shovel, only to spot a succulent fruit hanging enticingly off a nearby vine. I reach in among the plant's bitter-smelling leaves and pluck the yellow Sungold off its vine. As I bite down, it tastes like pure summer. While tomatoes are bountiful year round in the supermarket, here at the Urban Farm they're a special seasonal treat.
Students and community members have tended the Urban Farm's soil and nurtured its beds since it was established 30 years ago just across Franklin Boulevard from the main campus. Walking beneath a trellis draped with ivy and morning glories, a visitor can see rows of garden beds, overflowing with leafy veggies. Farther along the path stands a harvest table piled with produce, a rickety tool shed, an arbor of fruit trees, and the heart of the farm, a ribbon-wrapped Maypole surrounded by a hay bale circle.
Vigorously turning clumps of soil and breaking them up with well-placed stabs of our wood-handled shovels, the other volunteers and I discover delicious red potatoes still hiding in the bed alongside nature's aerators, earthworms that quickly retreat back into the loose earth.
Working in the garden for the past two years, I've become more attuned to the timing and labor of the art of eating. During early July, one gathers plump blueberries that, by midsummer, give way to meaty zucchini. In late August, the Eugene sunshine will reach its zenith, providing the final ingredient for crisp autumn apples, Asian pears, and the heirloom tomatoes.
Caring for these beds reminds me of the pleasures gained from hard work and the sometimes forgotten practice of social eating. After completing our garden tasks, we gather around the harvest table to share slices of an exotic melon and exchange favorite recipes. Tasting the fruit is the best reminder of the simplicity of preparing a meal, and that the recipe for happiness is to find delight in the things we eat together.
—By Brenna Houck