Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It Came From Out Of The Ground!

We grow the same vegetables every year. Sugar snap peas. Asparagus. Peppers and basil. And of course tomatoes. They even ripen now, and not just at two minutes before frost, because of the global warming. You have to grow your own tomatoes. Eating tomatoes from the store, even in the summer, is like going on a hot date with someone's avatar.

But for much of my life I didn't care much about vegetables. I assumed they were just on the plate to chaperone the meat. Salads were pointless. Something to soldier through.

When my Dad retired, he started making space for vegetables in the flower gardens. I have photos of him looking mighty pleased with his harvest, and he wasn't a smiley sort. I understood in theory, but put it down to one more odd thing only old people get excited about, like compression socks and lemon drops. My sister's been like this all along but she sort of started out old.

But something happened to me in the last few years. I like vegetables now. And salads. What the hell. Last year we stuck in some lettuce plants and it blew my mind how I could trot out the kitchen door and snap up a bunch of greens just like that. This year I thought maybe we could do some advanced college-level vegetables. Broccoli. Cauliflower. Brussels sprouts.

I didn't have a lot of hope for them, though. Seems to me we tried some Brassicas the first year we got this house, and they turned into an aphid maternity ward. I'm not even sure we ate any. And, after all, they were only vegetables. If Brussels sprouts made meatballs I might have been more concerned.

My plants jumped up quickly and I maybe checked them once or twice but basically I was waiting for them to fuzz over with aphids, at which point I would conclude they were about ready. So imagine my surprise when I peered into the top of one of my plants and found a broccoli bigger than my head! And another! And another! I didn't know what to do. Here I had a shit-ton of gorgeous broccoli all ready at once and no idea, other than sharing with neighbors, what to do with it. Until it occurred to me that you could put more than gin in a freezer. Enter Google and a plan began to emerge.

Well I couldn't be more pleased with myself. I now have six bags of blanched broccoli in the freezer and more fresh in the fridge. Why, I'm just like Grandma! Things have been Put By! In fact I'm exactly like Grandma, assuming she didn't also have to slop the hogs and milk the cows and feed the menfolks and strangle a chicken and hie off to the windbreak in the snow to go potty. All right. Comparing myself to Grandma is like getting into college as a Legacy. It's cheap ancestral credit.

The Googles said to soak the broccoli in salt water for a while to discipline any resident insects. But I didn't have any insects. Oh wait! Oh there they are. Hmm. Tucked way up in there, huh? Lookit that. They look right cozy. Hmm. Well, it's not like I didn't go ahead and bake a bunch of blackberry maggot pies that one year. The Googles say it's just extra protein and nobody will be the worse for it, and everybody did eat the pie, except myself, because I felt an allergy to larvae coming on, which is, I tell you, a thing.

Grandpa and Grandma
Blanching is a silly word for something that turns purple asparagus green or green broccoli greener, but we're stuck with it, and I did it. And I did pose with my broccoli haul, and I will be damned if I didn't feel mighty pleased with myself. Just like Dad.

Of course, I am old.


But not THIS old. Hey! Monday was Dad's birthday. Happy 111th, Daddy!

29 comments:

  1. Back in 2012, Paul was laid-off for what turned out to be most of the year. He got bored and started our vegetable garden. It's not big, as the only sunny place we have is the driveway, so he built raised beds/cold frames along the side of the driveway. Mostly we raise nightshades: tomatoes, jalape├▒os, and eggplant. Most other veggies take up too much room to justify their space, as we have an organic produce farm nearby.

    The difference between tomatoes picked out of one's own garden and "notional" tomatoes that one gets at the supermarket is vast. I usually pick them out of restaurant food because I've become a tomato snob.

    Since there are only the two of us, and we get lots of tomatoes (presuming we don't get blossom end rot because of too much rain, or "The Grey Menace" doesn't eat them), I started canning the surplus. Yeah, just like grandma. I use them to make tomato sauce, chili, and other things all year long, and it tastes so much better than the canned tomatoes from the market. It's well worth all the work, but it does leave me uneasy whenever Paul gets bored now.

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    1. Well crap, you're the second person today who told me home-canned tomatoes are way better than store-canned. I didn't want to learn how to can.

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    2. I'm a complete and utter vegetable snob because were poor and depended on our garden to survive. If you're only going to use your tomatoes for sauces and such, you don't have to can them. Chop 'em up, toss them into a food processor or blender, then freeze them. Since you'll have to reduce them at the time you use them (get rid of the excess liquid), you'll need to plan ahead and freeze about 1/3 more per packet than your recipes call for to accommodate what you lose in the reduction.

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    3. Murr, I have so many tomatoes this year that I decided to make a pasta sauce using 2# of my fresh tomatoes instead of my canned ones. OMG! And I thought my canned were better than store canned... this sauce was pure ambrosia! I had no idea there would be such a difference.

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    4. See, now what I think is a good plan is to live next door to mimimanderly and Cheryl.

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    5. I canned tomatoes for years but now I scald and peel and freeze ‘em. Much easier.

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  2. My dear dad, who passed away last year at 91, took great pride in his vegetable garden too. I remember bringing my fiance (now husband) and his three kids (now adults) up to NJ to visit Mom and Dad. The kids were out in the yard discovering stuff. Pretty soon they came running in the back door with the hems of their t-shirts stretched out into hammocks overflowing with broccoli. "Look what we found!" they delightedly informed us. They had picked every one.

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    1. Gee I hope they were ready to go! My a-ha moment as a child involved a raspberry bed.

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  3. Old isn't so bad, is it?

    Except when you're me, who can't grow stuff that ANYBODY can grow. I planted zucchini for the first time ever, this summer, and it's dying. DYING. ZUCCHINI. Sorry for the shouting, but dang it ZUCCHINI . . .

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    1. You must have the mark of the devil in you.

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    2. LOL - or powdery mildew, which I've just discovered is a thing with squash plants. My plant came already in a pot; I knew I should have started it from seed!

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    3. If there's one plant that can reliably be grown from seed, it's a squash. All mine started themselves this year and I'm waiting to see what I have. Seems like mostly acorns, and no butternuts (waaaaah), but I also have a round squash that's yellow at the top and green at the bottom, and I have NO idea what it is.

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  4. Mmmm, fresh tomatoes. They make the store bought variety taste like coloured cardboard.
    Add me to the old list. The old and well fed list.

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    1. You're all checked in already. Get comfortable!

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  5. Love you, lady. That was one mighty fine blogpost!

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    1. Why thankee! I was wondering if it was a little bland. Compared, say, to the poop post coming up this Saturday...

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  6. my Dad, too, had a garden. When you pick up a tomato in the market to smell it, most times there's nothing at all. In the best cases there's a bit. My Dad's garden, you could smell the tomatoes just walking up to it. The whole plant had that smell - stems, leaves. And the taste has never been equalled in my adult experience. We'd just go out there with a salt shaker.

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  7. My mum had the vegetable garden, dad couldn't care less, he was a meat and potatoes person. and cabbage. All us Germans eat cabbage. anyway, wherever we lived the first thing mum did was dig over a section of backyard and plant stuff. I used to try, but never had much success in most places I lived.
    I love your broccoli crop though. I'm happy that you've learned how to freeze it too. The exact same method is good for freezing most vegetables, with a few exceptions like lettuce and zucchini.

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    1. I'm trying to decide if it's worth it to freeze kale. Man that gets big in a hurry.

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    2. if you freeze it already chopped you can add it to soups and sauces. Whole leaves are just a soggy unusable mess when you thaw them, like lettuce. There's too much water in leafy greens.

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  8. My oh my, your broccoli is pretty amazing-looking. And I love the pictures of your Dad smiling.

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  9. Great pic! Been picking beans and the peppers are grand this year. Enjoy, summer it will be over soon­čśÄ

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  10. My Grandpa always had a big garden. In the summer time we used to walk down through the orchard to pick berries for breakfast. Lots of beans and corn and squash and of course tomatoes. Now I plant tomatoes and my grandson Ben and I have to argue about which ones are the sweetest. And of course there are the nine blueberry bushes that are pumping out blueberries like nobody's business. We are blessed!

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  11. That's a mighty big head of broccoli you got there!

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  12. You look very proud with that giant broccoli you harvested from your own garden. Enjoy all the goodies not that you moved up to college level.

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