Photo by Teresa Rafidi
One year, my father, a dentist by day who devoted much of each spring and summer to gardening on the weekends, declared that he would plant asparagus. It was unheard of, and demonstrated a wild streak that usually manifested itself in afternoon motorcycle rides (until my mom insisted he sell it) or flights above the city in his blue-and-white Cessna, a two-seater that both terrified and thrilled me.
But asparagus—the soft, mushy, tall vegetable that came in shiny silver-paper-wrapped cans with the Green Giant on the front— growing in our backyard in Denton? It was laughable.
He did it anyway. One year, among the more reliable crops—both regular and cherry tomatoes, jalapeños, radishes and corn—he planted asparagus. In the far corner of the yard, next to the chain link fence that separated us from our neighbors on one side and the alley on the other, where the city’s white garbage trucks would rumble by each week, his asparagus frontier took root, bold and unmarked, safe from trampling feet.
There was nothing for a long time. I remember asking him when the asparagus would come up, and he told me that it would be a few years. Years? Why would anything take that long?
So we waited. And waited some more. Finally, after the third year, or maybe it was four, what looked like nothing more than errant weeds appeared, a few small, wispy, dill-like shoots. His asparagus. But it wasn’t time to harvest them yet.
I wasn’t there to eat those few spears that he finally dug out of the earth with his Bowie knife, but I remember him telling me about it later. He was so excited and proud, my renegade gardener father, sowing seeds into unknown territory, just for the fun of it, to see if something might grow.