Thursday, September 15, 2011

Garden Angst

I read the iconic Victory Garden posters from the World Wars and I cringe, this year. I had no garden, no produce, and nothing to can. I think this is the very first year in ... a decade or more, that I have canned nothing at all. The few tomato plants I had did not do well in their pots. The small tomatoes we did get were enjoyed by the children, but they were definitely not many. I'm used to being sick of green beans by the point in my harvesting, desperate for the frost tonight and tomorrow to finally bring an end to the repetitive bean harvest that's been going on since June. This summer, I've had fresh beans twice. Once was from the local grocery store and I think they were from Mexico, and they didn't taste like the beans I grow.

All this changed tonight, though. Well, okay not the canning and growing part, but the "enjoying the harvest" part changed. A friend of sis's gave us her last pick-up at the co-op farm up the road. Tonight was their very last night before shutting down for the winter, and we were given her credit so that we could go and choose whatever we wanted. We walked into the barn/office area and were met the the smells and sights that I've missed all summer: fresh vegetables from wall to wall!

After finding out how it worked, we went and picked out our "nine items." Each item was figured differently. For instance, "one item" of potatoes was measured as two pounds. One item of beats was a bunch. One item of small squash was two squash. We looked everything over twice, drooling at the fresh, succulent look of it all, and then made our choices. The girl twin was with us, and piped up about what she wanted.

Our take for the night, out of the main harvest room: 2 pounds of fresh carrots, 2 pounds of fresh beets, minus the greens, 2 pounds fresh white potatoes, one (very large) bunch of beautiful leeks, 2 pounds of mixed red and yellow onions, one solid head of savoy cabbage (my favorite!), 5 field cucumbers (per the girl twin), two small pumpkin-style squash, and 2 pounds of huge tomatoes.

As we were preparing to leave, the lady who worked there pointed out that we were welcome to go into the fields and take anything in a row that was headed with a white marker. She especially urged us to go take as many cherry tomatoes as we could handle, and all the flowers we wanted, because of the coming frost. However, we were welcome to as much of anything we wanted to take the time to pick, and could stay as late as we wanted. We stashed our goodies in the trunk of the car, and we three ladies ran out to the fields with huge grins on our faces!

We managed to find delicate and aromatic baby dill, cilantro, and broad leaf parsley. The scent of them still clings to my fingers now, and it's the smell of summer's end. We also got about a pound of green beans which I picked off the bushes. The girl picked out several beautiful flowers to make a bouquet for her room. Then we discovered the field of cherry tomatoes. I wish we hadn't lost the light (we were picking in falling darkness and rain, by the way, in dresses and skirts and short sleeves) because I could have stayed there for HOURS.

The girl was ecstatic when she realized she could EAT those tomatoes and no one would get upset with her. She ate two for every one that made it into her bag, and I don't care one whit. It was wonderful to see her so happy. She's a gardening child, and desperate for getting her fingers dirty in the spring. She's definitely got a wee bit of me in her, biology notwithstanding. I gathered up quite a few firm and beautiful green cherry tomatoes, with the idea that I might attempt to make some pickled green tomatoes tomorrow afternoon. I love them so, and I never get to make them because there's either not enough time, or they get eaten fried up in batter. Since I'm the only one home tomorrow, I might just make two little jars of them.

It felt good to put all those fresh vegetables into the fridge. Tomorrow I'm making ham and split pea soup, because I made ham last night and we have leftovers. It will now also contain some of those fresh potatoes, some of the carrots and onions, and those pretty flowers will grace the table. The night after that, I can already taste the fried cabbage and boiled fresh beets, dripping with butter and a tiny bit of salt...

Now I can go into the autumn without too many qualms. I'm still sad that there aren't an abundance of clean, sparkly jars filled with summer's labor on my shelves, but that's okay. Instead, they'll be filled over the winter with empty jars stored upside down, ready for next summer and autumn's harvests to fill them. I can't wait!
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