It is a sad fact of urban gardening that thieves will sometimes pilfer your produce. Usually the crime is committed just as the fruit or vegetables are turning fully ripe, after you have nurtured the produce along for weeks or months.

We had a crime wave a few weeks ago, and the garden listserve lit up with reports. Blackberry nets sliced open and the berries taken. Ripe tomatoes snatched from the vine. Someone ventured that it might be deer. But deer wouldn’t cut open netting. Others said they saw young men (boys?) hanging around the edge of the garden, though that’s a not uncommon site since our community garden plots are located at the edge of a high school campus. But it was summer recess. Someone else reported seeing a family methodically picking through the plots.

We lost a few beets. Irksome mostly because some of the smaller ones were cast side and left to dry in the sun. A couple tomatoes and peppers. (Notice the thieves never take the zucchini)

I was at a lunch today in DC and community gardeners there reported the same problem. The thieves started with spring flowers, like the peony thieves reported by The Washington Post. (The Post’s selection of local stories to cover can be truly odd) My friend Lynn had a full crop of edamame snipped from the bushes.

The thievery is annoying and exasperating. But we all hold one small hope: that perhaps the garden thieves are truly hungry. In this land of plenty, 21 percent of Virginia kids struggle with hunger. If that’s the case, we’re happy to share.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.