I was in the grocery store yesterday and browsing the local produce…much of it not so local, being shipped from Chile, Spain, Costa Rica, California, and Mexico, but fresh nonetheless. Fresh watermelon and cantaloupes year around!
It is January and there were fresh beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, asparagus, squash, cucumbers, cabbages, snow peas, avocados, apples, pears, oranges, tomatoes. We take so very much for granted in this global economy. I am not talking smartphones, computers, and tablets, but simple luxuries, like fresh food.
My grandparents had a huge farm, and they had a garden that covered three acres. They taught me about gardening and harvesting.
When my own children were growing up, we had an acre and a half that was garden space.
I can’t say that we grew organic, because pesticides and herbicides were used. I can’t say it was better or worse for us, but it was fresh and local. There will never be anything tastier than that which comes right out of the garden.
We also had fruit trees and grape vines. Blackberries, blueberries and muscadines grew wild.
When my grandmother was a child, they only had whatever was in season unless they stored it during harvest time. Meat was salted and smoked, chickens were fresh killed, some foods were dried, and some were canned…not in tin cans, but glass jars.
I remember my grandmother canning vegetables, fruits, jellies and preserves. She washed the mason jars and set them in the bath to sterilize them, removed them, filled them meticulously, as this was an art form, capped them with lids, screwed on the rings, and returned them to the steaming bath to seal them. She worked for hours preparing and canning over the stove in the hot, humid kitchen all summer and into the fall. She taught me how to process foods and I did the same on our farm.
One year, we had a bumper crop of tomatoes and we canned 175 quarts of tomato sauce.
These colorful jars of vegetables, fruits, jellies, jams, pickles and relishes would sit on the shelves in the pantry, sometimes for years. Some, she would show in the county fairs to win ribbons and prizes. Some were opened and consumed before the next harvest season.
All through the winter, when there was no fresh produce to be found, we had canned veggies and fruits.
They tasted so much better and fresher than what you could get in tin cans from the store, when you could get to the store. They lived far out in the country and went into town about once a month, where they could buy staples like flour, sugar, grits, meal, and fruits and vegetables that were in season that they did not grow on the farm.
Grandmother got an upright freezer in the early 1970s, and learned to freeze most of the produce. Frozen was better than canned, both in flavor and nutrition. She still made canned pears, tomatoes and peaches, other things that did not freeze well.
Now, we can go to the store on any day of the year and get whatever we need fresh. How convenient is that? There are things that are in or out of season, flown in from all over the world, if need be. It is a lot easier to eat fresh everyday than it was back then. It is more costly than frozen or canned, but it is available.
This year, my daughter put together homemade cookies in a mason jar.
Now that is just too convenient!