It starts with going to the farmer's market. When I was a child I would go along with my father, who was the produce manager for the local grocery store. We would go during the week and it would still be dark out. I loved the smells of fresh and not-so-fresh vegetables, of cigar smoke and exhaust, the overhead lights swinging from single bulbs and the sounds of bushel baskets thumping on the ground, greetings being exchanged and prices being haggled over. It was magical to a little girl. It still is magical to me, and my hubby and kids and my grandkids.
We still to go to market, but now its Saturday mornings and we can't seem to get out of the house before 8 am. By then the sun is up, the parking lots are full, the strollers and baby carriers are in abundance as you step your way around the sea of people who are out for a few items. The selections have changed also. Now it is about presentation and unique items. The truck farmers have given way to immigrant farmers who have stepped up their game. What used to be farmers with potatoes, beets, corn, tomatoes and few other items has given way to specialty items of syrups, breads, soaps, sorbets, mushrooms and herbs and greens that I have no idea how to use. It has become a place to have breakfast and lunch. Dessert to follow.
In the early spring there are bedding plants, lots and lots of bedding plants and hanging baskets. The lettuce and peas and spinach growers show up as do the egg farmers. These give way to the strawberries, then the raspberries. Then the early tomatoes and first corn crop come in and the stream of people increase to a sea of people. Finally by late August, the first of the cucumbers arrive. And by September, the apple growers have taken up residence next to the potato and squash growers.
Call it my upbringing, or something my DNA or my need of one-upsmanship, but when late summer rolls around, the canning jars come out and the mad dash starts. So far this year I've put up 14 quarts of pickles. And 28 quarts of Colorado peaches. And tomatoes....so many tomatoes. Whole tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, frozen tomatoes. So many that I've lost count of how many quarts of tomatoes. We also bought 15 dozen ears of corn which we cooked outside in the big 20 gallon pot, decobbed (is that a word?) and froze. I think there were over 40 bags. And I'm still looking to put up pears and our family favorite, applesauce. Can't have cheesebutton without homemade applesauce! My ambitions get the best of me. The half bushel of green beans I bought at market to put up hot and spicy, ended up in the compost pile three weeks later because I never found the time. And I haven't been to the grocery store lately to see if the pears are in. (I'm sure they are.)
But when I look at the pantry with the shelves full of quart jars lined up like soldiers, I feel like I have done my job. It brings peace of mind and the anticipation of good meals to come.