I have always thought that gardeners are a lot like golfers. Not that I’ve swung a 4-iron in the last 20 years, but back when that was part of my weekly repertoire, I can remember thinking there were amazing similarities in both activities’ ability to shed alarmingly accurate light on the practitioner’s inner psychology. 

Take the golfer. Depending on the individual (or depending on the day for certain individuals) the emotional approach to each shot can reveal much. On the one hand, there’s the golfer who approaches each shot like it has a significant chance of going where the golfer intends. In essence, each and every shot is a potential hole-in-one.

Then there’s the other side of the coin — the golfer who only sees water hazards, sand traps, out-of-bounds markers and pilfering gophers.

Sound familiar, gardeners?

So I try to make it a practice each and every summer to remind myself that the overproducing zucchini crop, the occasional raccoon chomp on a tomato or the moth-eaten pumpkin leaves are really just the superficial spoils of an otherwise miraculous season. If you think back to the winter evenings spent perusing seed catalogs, the four-times daily check of seed trays to see if anything has germinated, and the first planting out of those precious transplants, it’s all in anticipation of that horticultural hole-in-one.

And now that we’re enjoying the spoils of victory, we sometimes need a reminder to savor the moment.

Home gardens are on the rise as people stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Infante-Casella.)

So how do you savor the summer garden? For some, it’s a morning or evening spin around the garden, clippers in one hand and coffee or gin and tonic in the other (you choose, no judging here!) clipping a bouquet to enjoy in the house for the next week. For others, it’s a trip to the vegetable garden for some late summer treats.

Greenspace: This ancient tree drops leaves that smell like cotton candy. And it grows in Kentucky

Given the choice, I always opt for the food-based solution. So here’s my homage to the summer garden — tomato salad with balsamic vinegar. Don’t worry non-food types, there’s no cooking required!

First start with a good tomato — no surprise there. If there was only one reason for me to get out of bed in August, it would be for a “Mr. Stripey,” “Hillbilly,” “Brandywine Yellow,” or “Japanese Black Trifele.” While none of these heirloom tomato varieties will win any awards for sheer tonnage produced, the fruit they do produce makes all the work, the sweat, the mosquitoes and the root rot diseases worth it.

Those super-somethings engineered to last on a grocery store shelf longer than a bag of rocks, well we can get those in January.

Next, there’s the cucumber. Now I’m not talking about the foot-long