Several of my friends buy organic food, get locally-grown produce when possible or participate in farm shares. Some grow their own tomatoes and herbs, but no one has enough space to have a vegetable garden.
I love fresh produce that hasn’t been shipped in from Mexico or Florida (or Chile, depending on the season), but I do enjoy having fruits and vegetables year-round, whether they are in season or not. And I am glad I don’t have to grow my own food.
Anyone who has ever had a large vegetable garden knows it is hard work. When I was growing up on the farm we had a garden with sweet corn, Kentucky Wonder beans, tomatoes (usually Big Boy), cucumbers, canteloupes, and yellow squash.
Daddy broke up the ground with the tractor then went through with the disc to break up the big chunks of dirt and marked out rows for us. He put in a little fertilizer. Then Mother and I planted everything, and it was our job to weed it and harvest what we grew. One summer when Mother was sick Daddy and I planted the garden, and we screwed up–we put the cucumbers next to the canteloupes. They cross-pollinated and did not bear anything. Who knew?
Hoeing is a hateful job, especially in 90% humidity and early-morning temperatures above 80 degrees. But it had to be done, because we did not have today’s genetically engineered crops which can be used with Roundup herbicide for no-till farming. So we chopped out weeds as early in the morning as we could stand. Our garden was not organic; we used a pesticide early on before the plants started bearing, or else there wouldn’t be a good crop due to the plants being eaten by insects. Once the vegs started, the pesticide stopped, and the battle with the bugs began.
When the tomatoes came in I had many a stand-off with blister bugs when trying to pick ripe tomatoes. Picking and shucking corn led to encounters with those big fat worms eating the end of the ears. Some kind of wasp liked to hover around anything that flowered, like squash vines.
And the work didn’t end with picking. Tomatoes were about the only thing that didn’t have to be prepared in some way, and Mother canned and froze dozens of quarts of beans, corn, squash and tomatoes each summer. We also picked blackberries and froze them or made preserves and jam, picked pears from someone else’s farm and made pear preserves. Mother even made pickles. She had a recipe for lime pickles (made with lime–the mineral–instead of salt) which were delicious, crisp and a bit tart. I was a largely unwilling assistant in all this. I’ll never forget the summer we picked, broke up and canned 90 quarts of green beans.
Mother did not have a vegetable garden because it was healthy–she grew one to save money, to make sure we had good food for the winter (hence the canning and freezing) and because it was the way she was brought up. I hated the work, but I did love the end product.
Here is a recipe of hers I just found for canning green beans. This is a faster method than the usual cooking down to a mush for hours. I have not tried this one! You still have to put them in sterilized jars and make sure they seal.
Canned Green Beans
4 1/2 quarts green beans, broken
1/2 scant cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
Put the salt, sugar and vinegar in a large pot with the beans, and bring to a rolling boil. Cook about as long as you would fresh green beans you were going to eat right away. Then put into sterilized jars and seal.
When ready to use, open a jar, pour off the liquid and season as you normally would fresh green beans.