Thursday, August 28, 2008

Garden Fresh!!

Summer is not my favourite season. I'm not good in hot weather. I wilt when it gets above 27C/80.6F - especially if you add in some humidity! I much prefer mid to low 20's for a summer high. As my grandmother always said; "You can always put more clothes on, but there is only so much you can take off!" Truer words were never spoken!

As you know, I grew up on a farm, which was both good and bad. It was bad in that I could never see well enough to drive and therefore it was rather isolating for me. It was good, in that I liked the tranquility and the abundance of fresh produce in late summer and early fall.

My parents had a HUGE garden for many years. They spent hours tending to the plants and pulling weeds so that we could have lots of fresh food and extra to can, freeze and preserve. I described my lack of gardening abilities back in May, so I wasn't required to help in the garden. I did however, help prepare the fresh produce for eating and preserving.

I helped with shelling peas, cutting beans, husking corn, cleaning carrots, potatoes, onions and various other produce. I often helped mom with the canning and freezing of the vegetables so that we could enjoy the tastes of the farm produce all year long.

Every year, mom would take stock of what was in the pantry in the cold cellar and decide which pickles, relish, jams, jellies and fruit to can. She'd check the freezer to see what was left of the peas, beans, corn, squash and other goodies.

If the produce was ready, it had to be done that day, regardless of how hot it was. That may mean standing over a hot stove blanching veggies for freezing or stirring jams, jellies and sauces. It could also mean cranking an old style food grinder to make relish or peeling apples for canning or to make apple sauce.

It was hot, tiring, labour intensive work - but the taste? Oh the taste of fresh home grown produce and it's offshoots was worth every effort!

The taste of fresh picked corn on the cob that is cooked within an hour or so of picking? New baby carrots, potatoes and onions? Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and beans straight off the vine? There is just no comparison to the stuff that passes for fresh produce in the stores.

The produce is so plentiful at this time of year that we didn't need to eat a lot of meat. We could make a meal of corn, potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers with fresh fruit for dessert. Mom used to keep a block of butter or margarine just to roll the hot cobs of corn on! Sometimes, we made an herb margarine with chives, salt and pepper for the corn and potatoes. Our favourite variety of corn was the "peaches and cream" as it was sweet and tender.

We scrubbed the baby carrots and ate them raw, bar-b-qued or steamed them

Potatoes and onions done on the bar-b-que with steak or chicken were melt in your mouth delicious!.
The tomatoes were a delicacy unto themselves. We'd eat the small ones whole or cut them for salads. The larger ones were sliced for sandwiches. Some were so big that you only needed one slice/sandwich. A little mayonnaise, salt and pepper on moms home made bread - we were in heaven! Sometimes we'd add lettuce or a slice of cheese but that really wasn't necessary as the taste of a tomato sandwich was so perfect on its own!!

I really miss all those great tastes. The produce in stores today, is better than it used to be but it still doesn't compare to locally grown fresh stuff. If you don't have ready access to a garden then try and find a local farmer's markets in your area and treat yourself to what really fresh vegetables and fruits taste like. You won't regret it!

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm hungry and I have to find a garden I can raid!


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