Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preserving Summer

For the past week or so, harvesting our garden has been competing with river therapy. This is the first year we've been really serious about gardening, and it's been an excellent harvest so far, with more to come. We have a variety of tomatoes and peppers, herbs, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, and green beans - with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and acorn squash ("volunteering" from the compost bin) on the way.


At this point, I have canned 30 quarts of tomatoes, made and frozen eight quarts of Italian tomato sauce, and dehydrated a few jars of spearmint leaves and eight jars of cherry tomatoes. 


I had never canned before this summer but am experiencing it as such a satisfying activity! I feel aligned with the energies of the nearly 200 year-old house in which we live, as well as my ancestors - especially my beloved grandmother who passed away nearly two years ago. When cleaning out my grandmother's house several months after she died, I found one long forgotten jar of carrots tucked away behind cobwebs on a basement shelf. That little jar spoke so much of the life she lived many years ago and brought back so many childhood memories. Canning is an act of love.

People who can seem passionate about it and eager to help a newbie. For example, an old high school classmate whom I hadn't seen or spoken with in more than 25 years called me from Virginia to encourage me and talk me through the whole process after I inquired about canning on Facebook. It is an activity that fosters connection and goodwill.

It has been so wonderful to step outside and be greeted by the intoxicating fragrance of spearmint on a summer breeze. My favorite beverage this summer has been ice water with mint leaves, which is incredibly refreshing. The mint plants have taken over their corner of our herb garden, and so I began dehydrating the leaves to make mint tea for my family and my students in the middle of winter - and also to make space for the basil, lavender, rosemary, and scallions competing for space in the garden.


And then there's the smell of the tomatoes. Each time I pick a ripe tomato from the vine, I pause to inhale deeply its earthy fragrance. I do that when I pick up a bunch of tomatoes in the grocery store, too, but there's nothing like the smell of tomatoes fresh from your own garden. 


I started some of these plants from seed back in the spring, as a hands-on science experiment with my kindergarten students - which makes the harvest even more gratifying.


I wish that growing vegetables would be a common practice in all public schools because it helps children understand where their food comes from and what is involved in growing it, and also connects them with the earth and the miracle and cycles of life. I think children would fall in love with vegetables, too.



Today the eggplant was ready for harvesting, so that means more sauce to make and plenty of baked eggplant parmesan to freeze


...and another load of cherry tomatoes to dehydrate. 


But I also intend to take a break for some river therapy! 



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