To my left, a vineyard spills off the road and up the hillside. A single hawk patrols overhead and bees burrow into the wildflowers at the vineyard's edge.
On the other side of the street, a gangly tomato bush leans over its cage to nuzzle the watermelon vine that sprints toward the sidewalk. Carrot tops and beet greens line the path to the Craftsman front door, gaily waving at passersby and the ubiquitous grape vine hangs over the fence top. Next door, a newly built French Country style home meets the street with rows of strawberry plants. Further down, a zucchini plant struggles under its weight . . . and the realization that it will soon be baked into bread.
Wine country is a bit more country than my suburban haunts. Here, as in Joyce's neighborhood, no one blinks at front yard feasting. Indeed, every lot proudly boasts at least one persimmon tree and many also host apple and plum trees. Fig trees are espaliered along the edges of homes and potatoes, eggplants and peppers greet the street.
Like its country cousins, San Francisco has also embraced public produce. This past weekend, 150 volunteers tore away the sod in front of San Francisco City Hall and replaced it with lettuce, tomato plants, beans and many other edible plants.
Back in the 'burbs, I'll spy the occasional citrus tree in the front yard or an ornamental - not edible - plum. People won't look askance at an exposed sunflower but they do trot by weekly to examine my crawling pumpkin vines, over-wintered Swiss chard, slithering runner beans and dying tomato plants.
I'm not sure why we hide our fruits and vegetables. Snap peas are as beautiful as sweet peas with the added benefit that my kids can skip dinner after gorging on their offerings. The T-Rex sized pumpkin leaves are a study in greens and textures and potato plants? My friend swears they look like peonies. I rather think she's right.
I'm proud of my pumpkins and peas, my ailing cucumbers and fumbling borage. They offer depth and dimension to a street otherwise lined with manicured lawns. They also offer a chance to get to know my neighbors, to share the surprise of a potato in the flower beds, and even spread some "greenness" in an otherwise grass-filled world. Perhaps I have a little country and a little Gavin Newsom in me for I'll happily feast in my front yard any day.
* San Francisco City Hall photo from Slow Food Nation.