Pull Up a Chair…
I don’t know how things are in the rest of the country, but here in West Virginia, the farm stands are bursting at the seams with an abundance of tasty home-grown produce. Last year, I had time to raise an entire salad garden — heirloom tomatoes, several types of peppers, lettuce, fresh herbs, and even several hills of cucumbers. This year, I’ve just barely had time to get my butterfly container garden planted in for our side porch (by the kitchen window where I blog most of the time) — and I’ve had the plants for over three weeks.
No veggies planted for us this year, so I’m depending on the growing prowess of strangers. Luckily for me, this year’s abundant rain and occasional stretches of sunlight have produced a bumper crop, so we definitely won’t be going hungry.
When I was a kid, we had a garden at my great uncle’s farm, and we would go over several times a week to weed and pick produce, and then take it home to either freeze or can or eat for a fresh garden supper. My uncle had an orchard planted around the house, including three cherry trees that bore the sourest cherries you ever tasted — but man, did my aunt make some amazing jam out of them every year.
This is one of my favorite times of year — when all the plants are full and ripe for the picking — and I can still remember the fun of going with my dad to the U-pick strawberry farm and trying not to eat more of the berries than I got in my bucket. (Same with the U-pick blueberry place…man, I love fresh blueberries. Need to think about planting a bush or two in our yard.)
Even when I have lived in more urban areas, I’ve always sought out produce stands and greenmarkets. I’ve never been able to stomach green beans out of a can from the store — they don’t have that snap that a snap bean ought to have, you know? Around here, from summer through the fall, you can find fresh from the farm produce — veggies, fruit, home-canned jams and jellies and apple butter, and all kinds of veggies — plain, pickled and/or relished.
The common denominator for the folks involved in all of these is that a lot of them are family businesses that used to be the main source of income for the family, but now — especially with gas prices what they are — have turned into a side business with the kids working a lot of the fields when they are home from school in the summer and the parents both working full-time jobs and doing farm chores early in the morning before work and again when they get home.
Wherever you get your veggies or your fruit, think for a little while about all the folks who have had a hand in getting it to your table. That’s a lot of hands — and this morning, I’m awfully grateful for them all.