I was on my way to do an interview at the Family Nurturing Center this week and couldn't resist stopping at the new community garden next door.

I was on my way to do an interview at the Family Nurturing Center this week and couldn't resist stopping at the new community garden next door.

Just a few weeks ago, I had walked down to the center on a different story. And had passed by the lot.

A few volunteers were bustling about with wood planks and rototillers, creating the framework for the garden beds.

But, at that point, it was really just bare dirt and a dream.

Now, planting bed after planting bed was bursting with life. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans and melons were flourishing.

Two people were working in the garden that day, tending to their separate plots. A lady was weeding in her corner bed. A gentleman, seated in a lawn chair down by his center-row bed, was surveying his crops.

I stood there, thinking about the change. Silently enjoying the beauty. Forgetting I wasn't invisible.

"Hello! You are welcome to come in and look around," said the lady, with an encouraging wave of her hand.

"Oops. Sorry. I didn't mean to disturb," I said, suddenly flustered.

"Yeah! Come on down and help pull weeds," called the gentleman.

I stepped into the garden and exclaimed about the amazing change just a few weeks had wrought. And marveling at how such a simple idea had created such a lovely spot in the middle of downtown Medford.

"It's such a happy thing," I said. "It just makes me smile."

The lady agreed with an answering smile.

As I explored the community garden from the inside, I could see each bed has its own distinct personality. Some beds were raised high for easy accessibility. Others made low to the ground. There are big ones with strawberry mounds. And smaller ones with little stakes for climbing vines.

I picked my way back to the gentleman. His bed was awash in water and filled to the brim with radishes, artichokes, melons and more.

The cantaloupes were started from seeds he'd scooped from fruit he'd purchased at the market.

"There must be about 100 seeds down there," he said.

He'd also planted several tomato plants.

"And I don't even like tomatoes," he said, laughing.

"But the plants were free and I figure I can give them away to folks who do like them."

He also figured he might learn to can the fruits for sauces, as it's only the taste of raw tomatoes he finds objectionable.

I suggested he try slow-roasting tomatoes.

"The taste is very different. Intense, but delicious," I said.

He already has. Grilled them, too. They're both non-starters, according to his palate.

He'd signed up for the plot because he thought it would get him out and about.

"Moving around a little bit more," he said.

I noticed a beautiful turquoise ring on his hand. A would-be jeweler myself, I couldn't resist asking about the giant nugget and the glorious silver work.

His father had dared him to make a ring with that large of a stone. Bet taken. The ring is beautifully designed and lovingly worn.

"It makes me think of my dad," he said.

I had to get going. So I bid the man good-bye.

"Come back in a few weeks and I'll give you some of those tomatoes," he called on my way out.

How nice of him, I thought.

And how easy it is to fall into conversation — even with a total stranger — when you're standing in a garden built to bring people together.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.