Cogli la prima fragola

In July we planted different varieties of strawberries, in large pots where each day the sun inched back from winter. We peppered the soil with chook manure and marinated it in worm wee, bedding down the plants in high layers of their namesake straw. The plants grew, large dark-green leaves unfolding like umbrellas snapped up on a rainy afternoon. And soon, even though it was early August and the sun only grazed the courtyard for a few hours a day, the flowers came, Nelly Kelly’s with a tight pink flower and white Lowana.

But they wilted and rotted and fell from their cords, no sign of a developing core which would become the fruit. I’m not sure if it was the lack of sun, the still-cold nights biting at them but I suspect it may have been a lack of dancing bees between the blooms. I’d not seen one for months. Do they travel north to the warmth or stay home to clean their hives all winter? And Reba, our cat, saw the straw beds positioned so in the sun as a just gift to him and flattened everything. To keep him off, we installed Reba-proof technology.

But last week I moved the leaves and to my surprise found the first reddening berry. Still connected to the plant, I lifted it up and placed it on top of the straw. For the next few days I watched it redden deeper. The birds had their eyes on it as I’m sure our other foe, the slug, did as well.

I remembered the first time I really tasted a strawberry, una fragola in Italy. When we cut them, they bled, so red and juicy was the flesh. I’m sure things taste better in Italy for a variety of reasons but it’s mainly the quality of the earth, tilled for thousands of years to human desires.

I remembered a song, Cogli la prima mela – Seize the first apple. We’re many days from a punnet. On the fourth day I could stand it no more and cut the umbilical cord, the flesh red and runny, ripe and juicy like a…

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