Erik's grandmother, Anna White, was an extremely special person. She was of another era, of a time when gardening was not a hobby, but a part of life on the farm. Anna and her husband Leo bought a little white beach cottage in Imperial Beach in the 1950s for their family of five. The two bedroom house was added on to and a barn/workshop built in the backyard which housed all the tools for cars and house and garden. They grew corn and vegetables and flowers and fruit trees. The California winters are extremely kind to growers who appreciate them. No frosts to kill off tender foliage. One of the plants Erik remembers as a kid was a huge chile pepper bush, maybe 4-5 feet across and just as tall. A prolific producer, it provided the little red "chiles de arbol" that grant the addictive heat to Mexican dishes.
The house is now occupied by a rentor; Granny died in 2003. Before we left San Diego, Aunt Betty, who cared for the house until she moved to Washington, gave Erik a baggy full of the dried bird chiles to plant in Arizona. Last spring I planted some of the seeds alongside the lemon basil seeds. The plants were very slow to grow, maintaining a slow and steady pace versus the frenetic pace of the basil. I have three strong plants that are now just over a foot, starting to climb out of the shade of the basil and tomato. I noticed buds on one of the pepper plants last Monday and watched it every day. Yesterday evening as I showered the collards, radishes, and sweet peas, I saw the tiny creamy white bells nodding under the wet leaves. O Happy Day! The seeds of a plant from Erik's childhood are once again alive and with us; such a blessing. Now I am starting to see how gardening can be a spiritual exercise as well as a physical one!