It is finally the season of abundance in my garden. (The ‘finally’ is my fault – there will be a Garden Mistakes blog one day, but the garden has been doing its best all along.) There are baby carrots and yellow squash, green onions and garlic, tomatoes ripening, peas galloping past, beans coming on, three sugar pumpkins.. It’s enough to delight and terrify me!
I am running to take advantage of these gifts. I am so happy that the garden is achieving this part of its potential – and now, what do I do with all of it? “Now! Now! Now!” is the cry of harvest season, as it is with so many garden seasons, shrill and urgent. If we miss planting corn, we don’t eat corn from our garden. If I don’t preserve this bounty, it won’t be around in the winter.
Some plants just need a daily look so I can pick the newly emerging goodies and eat them as they come on in procession, mannerly and well-paced. Others run rampant and demand more.
So I freeze some things, can some things, and store some things. My daughter dehydrates many fruits and vegetables, and I may decide some crops are best suited to that process. I already dry my cayenne peppers, and spearmint for tea leaves.
Freezing I reserve for peas and small fruits, mostly. The freezer lives at the daughter’s house, and it’s not next door. Storing works well for garlic and onions, potatoes, apples, squash, cabbages, and some other root crops.
Canning is the go-to for so many things. I prefer beans canned to frozen. Tomatoes and sauces work so well in jars, why do anything else? Fruits like peaches and pears can wonderfully, and so do beets and pickles. It’s not cool work, but having my canned goods standing behind me going into winter makes me feel prepared.
“Come, taste a little of the summer. My grandma put it all in a jar!” Greg Brown
All these things combine: love of the process itself, hatred of waste (of time, energy or matter), delight in the sensory overload provided by beets, peaches, tomatoes, and beans lined up in jars, desire to provide for those I love. I am swept away this time of year by gratitude and panic, anchored in desperation and delight.
“Grant me the strength to withstand my blessings,” my father says, and of course I agree.
As with most of the rest of life, “strength” often manifests as sheer orneriness and one-step-at-a-time living. Lists help me focus on the next task without feeling overwhelmed. “Eeep! I need to _____(insert task here)___” becomes “put it on the list”.
There’s also a certain amount of fatalism necessary. Maybe I won’t get everything done as I’d like it to be done. The stores are still stocked. We will (most likely) eat well for the foreseeable future. Produce we humans don’t or can’t eat goes to a host of garden gourmets who process it into next year’s soil.
And there’s next year itself. “Next year’s garden will be much better!” is the constant refrain of all the gardeners I know. And with it, in my house, comes “..and maybe next year we’ll get real peppers and can salsa.”
In the end, I am delighted with the whole race from garden to table. Providing high-quality food for those I love is a challenging and far-ranging task. Every little bit helps.
P.S. If you’d like to learn EVERYTHING about food storage from the perspective of a Mormon woman who’s done it for thirty years (Sister DeWitt), this is a totally worth-looking-at video. The introduction is about a minute long; the rest is golden. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=12&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjF4pLb7eHVAhUJyYMKHYZjCNMQtwIIVDAL&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DgOLuIApyNPc&usg=AFQjCNEmh3JcJlqTQ8ix9kwwamIYYwq4Xg
And the book is here on her blog: