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The Case of the Extra Eggplant


The mysterious eggplant in the old potato bed.
The latest in the series of unseasonable typhoons we've endured recently as well as my schedule have kept me out of the garden. The rain seemed endless and whenever it would let up, I'd have something else scheduled that I couldn't change. Were the tomatoes ripe? Had the soba gone to seed? Had the new soba sprouted? Would I find another giant zucchini or cucumber waiting for me? How was the popcorn?

My husband, though, scurried down once or twice during a break in the rain to get greens for our salads. One day he took photos. "How's the popcorn?" I asked, reaching for the phone to see the pictures. "It's out of control," he said as he started making the salad for our lunch.

Sure enough, it was. The popcorn, Smoke Signals, is said to grow to about 8 feet in height, and these plants are living up to their reputation. It loomed in the back of the photo, just behind the now empty potato bed.

Except the potato bed wasn't empty.



"This is my garden, right?" I asked my husband.

"Yeah," he said, chopping away.

"Then why is there an eggplant here?"

"What? You didn't plant it?" he asked, knife paused mid-air over a carrot.

"No. I don't really like eggplant. I never plant it." I said, staring at the picture that clearly showed an eggplant seedling.

I was not particularly pleased. Planting something in someone else's garden is a bit like using their toothbrush or painting their living room a different color without asking. The potato bed is under development - meaning it is my compost bed for garden waste - in preparation for fall planting. A bundle of norabo seedlings, too, were volunteering there, and I was watching to see what would happen.

Whoever planted the eggplant had done so tidily, staking it and tying it off, gathering mulch around its base, too, although that also irritated me. Bare soil is a major sin in my gardening book, and even from this pixilated angle I could see it. Worse yet, I am going to have to thank the person who did this, say how wonderful it is that they gave me an eggplant, ask for advice on how to prepare it. I'm the youngest gardener and newest member of the group, which means I have certain obligations. One of these is to gratefully accept gifts from older and more senior members. I have declined other offers of seedlings, but never in my wildest dreams did I think someone would plant something when I wasn't there, without asking.

After a few days of asking around, two things happened. I found out who the Mystery Planter (MP) is, and I started laughing about it. I got over my Case of the Grumps to realize that this is pretty hilarious and is a sign of affection. The other gardeners laughed rather uproariously when they heard my story, which proved infectious by the third time. (Word got around, too, and now they stop by to ask after the plant when they see me.) The MP, of course,  simply wanted me to feel welcome, to enjoy summer's bounty, and probably make good use of one of his extra seedlings. Eggplant pickles, anyone?

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