Gardens provide endless recreation, recipes
The month of August has been called the bridge between summer and autumn, and we are crossing it now. Ragged yellow wild sunflowers are blooming along the way, while jarflies and cicadas serenade us as we walk. It's "a hard row to hoe" right now with the garden coming in all at one time, and a scramble to keep up with preserving the harvest.
A green grasshopper swings on a grass blade, seemingly unconcerned with getting ready for winter, while a colony of ants scurry back and forth, preparing for cold weather ahead. Frost and freezing winds will be the end of the grasshopper, while the ants will go underground and live this winter with the fruits of their labor.
The Bible admonishes us in Proverbs 6-6: 7, "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gatherest her food in the harvest."
The Lord provides us with strength to sow the seed, cultivate the crops, and harvest the bounty. He sends the reviving rain and the life giving sunshine. We must provide the labor, however.
Some people are like grasshoppers, lounging around all the summer long, and then expecting someone else to provide their sustenance. Of course there are folks who are not able to raise a garden and others who desire to but have no space for it.
I have friends who put a few tomato plants in their flower beds, a sweet pepper plant or two, and a few cucumber seeds.
It is a sweet harvest to have fresh vegetables for the table during the summer. I dread to think of the day when I won't be able to can and freeze.
My children admonish me for canning so much. I always feel that someone will need it, or perhaps the garden might fail next year, and anyway, the empty jars in the cellar reproach me. In the meantime, the tomato kraut is ready to take out of the churn and cold pack, the sweet pickles are absorbing the sugar-vinegar solution and the brine pickles are ready to eat. I feel fulfilled.
We received a recipe some time back from Levonne Cunningham of Charleston in which she describes the way she pickles corn. I pickle ours on the ear in a churn, but this is cut off and pickled in the canning jar. She says it is a tried and true recipe and very easy.
For each pint of raw corn (cut off the cob) add one teaspoon of canning salt and one scant teaspoon of sugar. Pour boiling water (use "well" water -- city water with chlorine doesn't work) over corn, leaving one-inch head space. Cover with hot lids. This will foam a little as it ferments, so set jars in a pan for about two weeks. She says this works pretty well with sauerkraut, but is not successful with pickled beans.
My sister Mary Ellen makes her pickled corn in a churn, and after it is done, she cuts it off the cob and cold packs it. The recipe for corn made in a churn is easy -- place cooked, cooled corn in jar, and cover with a solution of two-thirds cup of canning salt to a gallon of cold water. (Also -- no chlorine water.)
I reckon summertime and green apples go together -- and green apple bellyache. What country kid has not shinnied up an apple tree, armed with a salt shaker, and eaten their fill of green apples? Mom would tell us that green apples would make worms in our belly, but we must have thought it was worth it. They will give you a bellyache though.
One summer my brother Larry and I climbed up one of the apple trees up in the bottom, intent on loading our stomachs with green apples. The first limb was too far up for us to reach, so we used a piece of a rotten log that was lying on the ground. We propped it up on the tree trunk, and proceeded to climb. We had just started up the tree when a swarm of yellow jackets covered us.
We made it on up the tree in record time and perched on a broad limb. We were afraid to climb back down, so we sat there examining our wounds. I think green apples were the furthest thing from our minds. The next day my feet and legs were so swollen I couldn't walk. I can't remember Larry's condition, but I bet he does.
Yellow jackets are a summer hazard, and they are particularly bad this time of year. Our oldest son Michael was weed eating his yard last week and ran into a yellow jacket nest buried in the grass. They covered him -- he said he got 40 stings or more. He ran and threw his weed eater; unfortunately he must have thrown it in front of him. He tripped over it and down he went.
When the dust settled, he was found to have suffered a spiral fracture of his left leg, from his knee to his ankle. He is convalescing at home, busy with scratching his yellow jacket stings. It looks as if my children are following in my footsteps.
Steve Clemins of Point Pleasant sent us a poem that is relevant to this season, and echoes the sentiment of many of us.
ON CANNED TOMATOES
I've always felt wealthy
With canned tomatoes on the shelf
Helping to remember
The garden of summer
With bright red orbs
Plumping their skins
Without a crack or a blemish.
Standing now on a shelf
Sauteed with green pepper
Promising fresh-like stews
Or a hearty hot chili
To warm our hearts
In the middle of winter.
We mountain folk use a lot of old expressions that sound curious to those outside our area, but sometimes we wonder ourselves just where the word originated. Daughter Patty asked me this week where the word "mess" came from, as in a mess of green beans or other food. My sister Jeannie thought it came from the Bible, as in "a mess of pottage." I don't know.
I did find the dictionary meaning of "pottage." It was a thick soup or stew of vegetables and sometimes meat. The pottage that Esau ate was red, and I always imagined it was made from lentils. Venison turns a reddish color when it is cooked, and I think I'd like a mess of it myself!
(Thank you, Betty Pennington of Charleston, for the song words.)
Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.