The Farmer’s Table

My parents have one of the biggest gardens I’ve ever seen, and with a summer growing season blessed with periodic rainfalls, plenty of sunshine and a healthy dose of humidity, the fruits of their labor have been abundant.

Green beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet corn, strawberries, raspberries, peppers, cilantro, asparagus, rhubarb, potatoes, carrots, onions, beets and a few other things have been picked, washed, cooked, canned, frozen, processed, sliced and diced as Mom fills up her shelves, refrigerators and freezers.

The other night, I was invited out to the farm for supper to find fresh-cooked green beans, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers in cream and a pan filled with new crop mashed potatoes on the table. Meanwhile, in the basement, a huge pot of tomatoes was slowly cooking on the stovetop as she prepared yet another batch of canning jars for homegrown tomato juice.

The week before, she had beets in the pressure cooker. I wish she would have warned me.

There are a few smells that waft from Mom’s kitchen that I have little tolerance for — liver frying in the pan, the aftermath of chicken processing and the odor of red beets cooking.

Mom says I used to like beets. In fact, when I was still young enough to be sitting in the high chair, there were meals where those diced red beets were the only thing I’d eat. Now, a queasiness comes over me at the mere sight or smell of pickled beets.

Any way, the beets are finished and neatly organized in jars on the shelf, and the tomatoes are slowly being added to the collection.

Come November, when my brothers and nephews are home for deer hunting, those jars of tomato juice will be plucked from the shelves one by one as we cook up our traditional deer hunter’s Crock-Pot Chili.

At Thanksgiving and Christmas, the family will celebrate the holidays with another nod to the garden’s abundance — dill pickles, sweet pickles, squash, potatoes, canned green beans and fresh-frozen sweet corn. Those pickled beets usually show up on the buffet line as well.

Month by month, jar by jar and freezer bag by freezer bag, the bountiful harvest will slowly whittle down through the long Minnesota winter.

And just as the memories fade of all the work that went into planting, weeding and harvesting, Mom will get excited for the new seed catalogs that make their way to her mailbox come January.

My only hope is that she might consider a smaller garden with less work next summer. After all, she’s not feeding an Army!