Southern gardeners know that compost is both wonderful for the soil and good for a laugh. It’s amusing to see what unexpected thing sprouts in a garden enriched with composted vegetables and fruit. Will it be a volunteer cherry tomato? A sweet potato vine? A cantaloupe?
This year’s pop-up plant was an obvious member of the cucumber family. The leaves were bigger than a cucumber plant, but it trailed and put out climbing tendrils like a cucumber. The flowers didn’t look like a cucumber plant–they were much bigger, and the petals more deeply divided. And it had a big central pistil or stamen. It looked more like a yellow hibiscus. “Well, more’s the surprise,” I thought, “if I don’t know exactly what it is.”
Mostly I ignored it. Then, on a little trip to the garden for chives, I spotted a little polka dotted something under its leaves. The shape, size and color whispered “watermelon.”
Well hey there! A watermelon! And the critters didn’t eat it–must be my lucky year.
It was a little thrill, like winning a lotto scratcher. Just a moment of grace, something received that I didn’t work for. After all the laboring in the garden, it was about time. So I got a little closer for a better look, and….ewww! It’s covered, all over, with prickly hairs. I don’t even know what this alien UFO is. I’m scared of it. And I can’t pick it up.
And I’m sure as hell not throwing it into the compost.