Labor Day Weekend is just about the most perfect time of year. The kids are back in school, but not sick of it yet. The weather is turning. It is still warm enough to be out but not blistering hot and cool enough to be out but not wrapped up like a mummy. Labor Day weekend typically signifies the end of summer and the beginning of fall – which is my favorite season. It is a busy time of year. The farmer’s markets are bursting with the evidence of summer’s hard work.
I love to drive by the farmer’s markets and see their bounty on display. Baskets of ripe peaches and crisp apples sitting atop of rickety crates covered in plastic, red-checkered cloths. Barrels and boxes full of cantaloupe, tomatoes, onions, peppers and watermelons. Sometimes you can buy plants there or fresh eggs. Honey is often available. I like the quirky signs and the various awnings that draw attention to the local marketplace. I am drawn to farmer’s markets because there is something so elemental in smelling a peach, feeling a firm tomato, or giving a watermelon the requisite thumps.
A trip to the farmer’s market is fun and necessary at times, but harvesting your own is something else. There are not many things as satisfying as going out into your own garden and picking fruits and veggies. Personally, I like to “can” or “put up” veggies and fruits to eat over the winter. I find it relaxing to wash, peel, chop, cook, and preserve different foods. I also think that good, homegrown food is much better for my family.
Not only do we eat tastier food, but the smells and sounds of preserving our food creates spaces for our family to be together. As we work, I tell them their history and the things their dad and I did growing up (well, selected things). I connect them to the larger world outside of themselves. They GET to learn how to pick and gather and haul. We get to be together making new memories. They quickly learn to keep their fingers out of the way when slicing and that it takes patience and some delicacy to pick berries. Snacking is inherent in preserving food – especially berries and juicy apples – and leads to lots of laughter. At the end of the day, everyone learns how to roll out a pie crust. For the extra peaches and apples, you know.
One drawback to preserving food is that sometimes you don’t have a supply of a specific fruit. Last week the teen was bereft because she could not find a jar of grape jelly in the pantry. I explained to her that the grapes I had access to did not make it this year. Even the few wild grapes up in the mountain became a harvest for the birds and deer. She was flustered. We always had a supply of grape jelly.
“But I don’t like the store jelly. I only like your grape jelly. What am I going to take for my lunches?”
I knew how she felt but I offered her the super yummy raspberry and blackberry jelly. She shook her head. “How about the strawberry and peach from earlier in the summer?” Just not the same as the grape.
Luckily dad came to the rescue. He is tall enough to see all the way to the back of the cabinet and he found a wide-mouth, pint jar of grape jelly! One single jar labeled GRP – 2014. She hugged it to her chest and placed it in the fridge. One beautiful, purply, jar of homemade grape jelly. Her smile validated all my efforts at the harvest season.
I hope your weekend is spent with family as we celebrate the end of summer, the beginning of fall, and the precious time we have to be with those we love.