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By Staff | Jan 20, 2012

It’s not the least bit fair, you know. It’s not right for us to receive all these garden catalogs during this, the deadest stretch of winter. The seed companies simply aren’t playing fair.

They’re fully aware of what effects these sheaves of salacious sales materials will have on us.

After all, we are only human. Who, after viewing all that fetching flora, wouldn’t suffer from a twinge of carrot covetousness? What sort of superhuman could look at those vivid vegetable photographs and not find his chest pounding with lentil lust? Or feel the pangs of unrequited asparagus ardor?

I realize that similar comestibles are currently available in the supermarket. But similar does not always mean the same.

The produce items offered at the store have about as much to do with homegrown garden-raised veggies as Disneyland has to do with reality.

It’s a pleasant form of fantasy, but you know darn well that it’s merely a distorted reflection of what is real.

It goes without saying that many of the “fresh” fruits and veggies peddled to us in the wintertime were grown in some exotic, tropical locale such as Tuvalu or Kiribati.

I’ve heard that some of our produce even comes from that astonishingly bizarre place known as California.

There is nothing the least bit attractive about the so-called strawberries that magically materialize in the middle of the winter. You know that those berries were picked green – probably mere moments after the plant achieved pollination – then packed into plastic containers and shipped intergalactic distances before finally arriving at your local supermarket.

Now take a moment to think back to last June. Recall the fizz and the crackle that shot through your central nervous system when you espied that first flash of crimson amongst the lush, green foliage.

You reached down and let your fingertips tenderly caress the bursting-with-juice berry. The strawberry seemed to blush even brighter as you realized that its warmth was not entirely due to its afternoon sunbath.

Unable to control your impulses, you gently plucked the fruit. You put it to your nose and inhaled deeply; the sweet and tangy perfume made you suddenly lightheaded. You slowly parted your lips and

Whew! Just give me a minute while I catch my breath. Is it warm in here? For some reason I’m suddenly sweating. My wife’s hot flashes must be catching.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Vicarious vegetable fantasies, when they take hold of us at midwinter, tend to elicit a disproportionate sense of enthusiasm for gardening.

This heedless reverie can induce a person to do extremely foolish things such as order three packets of zucchini seeds when one would obviously be more than enough.

I mean just one zucchini seed. Anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows that it’s the top terrorist of the veggie world. A single plant can be so prolific, amateur gardeners run a very real risk of being squashed by squash.

The main problem with these midwinter garden catalogs is the fact that we have by now forgotten about all our past gardening struggles. We only see the idealized world represented in the catalogue.

These booklets brim with photos of perfect fruits and unblemished veggies glistening beneath a soothing summer sun. The gardens in these photos all have rich, black soil with nary a weed nor a bug in sight.

Human beings are sometimes given small cameos in these garden catalogs. But the people are included only to lend a sense of scale. Look at the size of that rutabaga compared to that guy’s head! And it appears that it would indeed be possible for Peter the Pumpkin Eater to house his wife in a pumpkin shell.

But these exceptionally alluring magazine photographs paint an incomplete picture. Where are the sore back muscles that come from stooping down to pull up weeds?

Do any of the photos convey the anguish that stabbed the gardener’s heart when he learned that deer had cropped his sweet corn crop? What of the burning bitterness that arose after discovering that bugs had brunched with his broccoli?

We know all about these and other innumerable and inevitable disappointments. And yet, and yet

And yet we dig in the junk drawer for a pen so that we can fill out the seed catalog’s order form. Hope spouts eternally in the human breast, like a bean seedling stubbornly pushing its way through soil that has been crusted by a springtime deluge.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this new seed catalog has given me the hots for these heavenly jalapenos. It seems that my pepper passion has been inflamed.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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