My husband's garden is mass producing this year. We have so many beans and cucumbers that he has me doing a run every other day with bags of produce for friends who can no longer garden or who do not have the space needed for a garden. Here in town we can find quite a few who fill that description. People who had gardens when they were younger or healthier are the most appreciative. They know how much hard work it takes but they also know it is better eating than anything they buy in the store.
The sweet corn season lasted a month and when my guy couldn't find anyone who wanted more sweet corn, he picked it and put more into the freezer. He couldn't bring himself to let it harden in the field. We have at least 80 quarts of frozen corn now. What do two people living alone do with that much corn? Serve it to every guest who comes through our door and give it away in the winter when it is once again a treat.
Today he reported he will have 15 5-gallon buckets of tomatoes soon. We had our first of 25 or 30 cantaloupes today. The refrigerator is bulging with green peppers, the work bench in the shop is covered with onions, there are several bags of sweet carrots in the basement refrigerator and he tells me there are many more in the garden. Watermelons, pumpkins and squash are flourishing. He has never had a garden in all his 40 years of gardening to equal the output of this one. He is 75 years old but the first 35 years of his life either his mother or his wife did the gardening. Mother did fine. Wife - well that is another story.
This column is going to be unusual because I am including a recipe. There is no way I can write a cooking column. Everything in it would be hear-say. The exception I am making today is because my husband has made 10 gallons of refrigerator pickles. Friends and family sample them and want his recipe - unless, of course, he is giving them a couple of jars already made. Grandson Charlie would eat an entire pint at once sitting if we allowed him to do that - and his dad is just as eager to dig into them as little Charlie. They get theirs ready-made.
The recipe: Fill a gallon-sized glass jug with sliced cucumbers and 3 large onions, chopped. Mix the following ingredients well: 4 cups white vinegar, 4 cups sugar; 1/2 cup pickling salt; 1 1/2 tsp. EACH turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed. Pour into the jar of cucumbers and onions and store in refrigerator. Shake jar every day or so for 2 weeks. They are then ready to eat.
We have been on the receiving end of garden stuff in years when our garden produced problems instead of good eating. The weeds got ahead of me most of the time when I was the official gardener for our family. If I had a good crop, it was hard to find it. My friendly neighbor lady did much better than I. Her tomato patch never failed to be beautiful. Joyce had seen my poor excuse for a garden. She left a message on my phone: "I have put up all the tomatoes, salsa and catsup I need for this year. There are still lots of tomatoes out there. If you want them, they are yours." We had late maturing sweet corn and they often shared their earlier corn with us, too.
The first year we were in town, my husband's potato crop in his new garden was awful. A gardener who lives just down the highway from us had more than he needed. His wife told him about our poor crop. "I dug potatoes the other day and there are plenty there. Come on down and take what you want. They are on the pickup in my garage," was Mike's generous offer.
These days my job in all of this is to make phone calls and find out who needs what and then deliver it. That is not all hard work. I stopped to give neighbors, Lee and Jane, some bean and cucumbers at a little after 9 one morning. I found them playing 3-handed pinochle with a visiting son. Playing with 3 people isn't as much fun as playing partners. "Need a fourth player?" I asked.
The rest of the garden stuff waited in the van while I played a couple of games of cards. I was only going to play one game with them but we played guys against gals and the guys won. I didn't want to leave as a loser. The next game the ladies won. That freed me up to return to my delivery job. Nice work if you can get it!