Two years ago in May, I went home to Maine for a visit. With an eye toward brightening up my parents’ yard, I bought some flowers to plant. Thinking they might also enjoy a freshly grown tomato or two, I bought a tomato plant and put it in a pot near a window so they could easily monitor its progress. Last year I went home about the same time. This time my mother had gotten their old garden area (approx. 30 ft. x 36 ft.) rototilled and was ready for me. We visited every nursery in our area and some farther away. The revived garden began to take shape. We planted all sorts of seedlings: tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, hubbard squash, and a few other things. At the same time my sister and brother-in-law were planting their annual vegetable garden. We regularly compared notes. Soon my vacation came to an end. Then I got updates by phone all summer. I heard when they picked the first tomato, and ate the first cucumber for lunch. Mom helped my sister and brother-in-law make marinara sauce and put up pickles from their own harvest.
Same time this year I went home again. The garden was once again ready to be planted. We hit all of the same nurseries. And again I’ve gotten updates on the progress. They’ve just finished canning several jars of marinara sauce, making apple jelly, blackberry jam, and blueberry jam. They’re getting ready to make pickles. The four of them also enjoyed a zucchini parmesan from one of the giant zucchinis. It was a banner year for both gardens!
I’ll be going home for Thanksgiving, which will be at my sister’s house. This year, as part of the Thanksgiving feast, my sister will serve tomato sauce made from her own tomatoes, various pickles made from veggies from both gardens, and probably a pie made from a squash from our parents’ garden. Just the other day my mother called and asked me if I would please find her a recipe for sweet gherkins. She’d had to pick a large quantity of tiny cucumbers to save them from a predicted possible frost. As canning is a bit of a lost art I expected I would have to look online for this. I should’ve known better. For one thing, it appears that canning is making a comeback. For another, if you’ve ever ventured over to that section you know that we have a very robust cookbook collection at the Sunnyvale Library. In that collection there are several books about canning, preserving and pickling food. Among those is a brand new title: Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan. This is not your grandmother’s food preservation cookbook: tomato jam, rhubarb chutney, pickled garlic scapes, and cranberry ketchup are just a few of the featured recipes.
(Mom and I are already talking about what we’ll plant next spring!)