Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harvest time

So here the thing: I'm a city girl. I was born in Philadelphia, and have lived in cities (Boston, Berkeley, Portland) my whole life. We never had much gardening space when I was growing up, and what we had was usually devoted to rose bushes and flowering plants (my dad was the gardener in our house, and he always grew beautiful things). So we never grew vegetables; the only home-grown fruit I ever tasted came from a small peach tree in our minuscule back yard.

We had two apple trees on our property in California, and both produced prodigious amounts of fruit. I'd make pot after pot of applesauce which I'd freeze and then thaw in winter, when the taste of anything made from fresh-picked fruit was a real treat.

We now have a sizable back yard (my friend Deb's mom told me it looks like a park!), and last year David built me a small raised garden bed so I could plant some veggies. We planted late in the season and our harvest was small (maybe a quart of tomatoes and no zucchini at all), so this year we did our planting earlier.

I've learned a bit about the demands of harvesting from our amazing strawberry plants, as the gallon or so of frozen strawberries in our freezer prove. But even the strawberries didn't prepare me for our tomato harvest.

I picked a bunch this morning, and decided it would be interesting to see how much we have available at the moment (and believe me, we've been eating tomatoes every night, as many as we can manage), and it's about a pound of cherry and/or grape tomatoes. But there are a gazillion more out there, waiting to ripen and be gathered. At least a gazillion, maybe more. An on-line friend pointed me to a recipe for a cherry tomato tart that I'll attempt to make this weekend, and I've made a batch of pasta sauce that's frozen and ready for January/February consumption (along with about a quart of homemade pesto made mainly with basil we've grown here).

Oh, and I've done nothing with the pears that keep dropping onto the lawn. I have to get working on them, as well.

So, anyway, here's this city girl, born and bred, suddenly getting a real-life glimpse, if only for a brief moment or two, into the rigors of life on a farm. I don't mean to aggrandize my own experiences by saying that; I'm quite aware of how small my efforts are. But going out every morning to check the garden, harvest what's ready, and then figure out how to preserve what I've harvested has opened my eyes to just how difficult and all-consuming the lives of farming families are. I try to imagine what life would be like without refrigerators or freezers, in a time when nothing was wasted and everything needed to be preserved quickly (unlike our lives now, when I see gallons of apples fallen from trees along the streets where I walk crushed into pulp by passing cars). Hell, I'm wiped out when I make one batch of tomato sauce. I can't imagine spending day after day, keeping a stove going so all the various fruits and veggies could be prepared for canning. My guess is I wouldn't be worrying about losing weight!

David built another set of raised beds about a month ago, which means double the harvest next year. Ack!