Angela Otts

Although I don’t have a garden, I’m lucky to have generous neighbors. I got some beautiful tomatoes this week, probably the last of the season.

The garden of my youth took up our entire backyard. My mother planted everything you can think of…lettuce, radishes, string beans, beets, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, watermelons, cantaloupes, asparagus, cucumbers, zucchini…whew, I think I’ve included them all.

I’d watch for the tomatoes to ripen so I could get the salt shaker out and have a treat in the garden. That memory keeps coming back to me as I get garden fresh tomatoes.

It was pleasant watching that garden grow. We girls did the hoeing and my brother did the watering, when needed. Our table was always filled with those wonderful veggies.

My mother canned much of it for the winter months. She had shelves in the cellar where she stored the bountiful array of jars.

I took up canning as a young housewife, preserving tomatoes and making pickles. My kids couldn’t stand the brine smell in the house with the pickles, but I loved looking at my finished product. The jars lined the kitchen table, and, yes, there was salt all over the place. I was a messy canner.

It seems when older women get together, they reminisce about gardens and canning. There was something about being self-sufficient in our generation.

Our mothers and grandmothers gardened and we gardened. We all enjoyed the pinging of processed jars. It wasn’t an easy task. We couldn’t delay the canning if the veggies were at their peak.

I hope younger women still do some of these things. I gave my canning jars away when we moved to Alabama from Wisconsin. The lady and her husband across the street were retired farmers, but canning was still in their blood. They happily accepted the jars.

Our garden was a happy place, especially when the seedlings started to pop. My mother had us put the empty seed packets on popsicle sticks at the beginning of each row of new vegetables. We knew what was growing.

We kids liked to sample the harvest before the harvest. I remember looking for the largest radish, pulling it up and running it under the water spigot to get the dirt off. And then crunching away!

The vision of our garden is still fresh in my mind, especially when I’ve gotten that gift of fresh tomatoes. Like my mother used to say….”Don’t drip on your shirt.”

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