by Charlene Burgi
Is there a project you tend to put off? My nemesis consisted of unpacked boxes from our move that still remained on the garage floor. There were so many other things I would rather do than sift through those boxes. However, Jack reminded me that winter was coming and the car would fair much better if housed. The timing was perfect for such a task because the air quality outside was poor due to wildland fires from surrounding counties. The smoke was so thick it seemed you could cut it with a knife. Extensive outdoor activities were not a great idea right now.
Begrudgingly, I began opening boxes to find new homes for the contents found within. A good number of the boxes contained files of paperwork. Sifting through I cursed myself for ripping out every garden article that peaked my interest—until my eyes fell on a very old September 7, 1963 yellowed copy of the Marin Independent Journal discussing tips on vegetable harvest.
We are now reaping the harvest from spring planting, so the timing of the article was spot-on even though it dated back just shy of 50 years. I couldn’t help but read and wonder if practices changed over the years? The information in the article puzzled me as many of the vegetables listed were winter crops such as peas and broccoli. Is that why they suggested picking the broccoli before the flowers showed color, but “an occasional opened flower did not mean overmaturity”? Broccoli would bolt to seed in the heat of summer.
The article made me think how we know when to pick our crops. Is it instinct or years of experience? Without a doubt, harvesting requires that we use our senses such as taste, smell, touch and vision. Some may challenge that hearing must be included to recognize the dull “thunk” of a ripe melon. Zucchini is perfect when it grows six to eight inches. Corn is ideal when the silks turn brown or a fingernail in a kernel squirts out the sweet milk found within. Snap beans snap off the vine before they become rubbery. Tomatoes, peppers, and “cukes” are best picked with good color and firmness. Lettuce, chard and spinach are best eaten while the leaves are young and before they set seed. Beets, radishes and carrots can be picked when the root begins to slightly lift in the soil. As this shows, our senses are critical during harvest.
On a side note, the article suggested removing the tops of carrots to preserve moisture and sugar in the roots. I hadn’t heard that one before! Maybe this task wasn’t such a gruesome chore after all. There was forgotten treasure in the boxes to be rediscovered!
The task at hand and worn garden articles reminded me of the doors that opened since being exposed to gardening at a tender age. The files revealed my thirst of knowledge on this subject. The files also harkened back that it was the fruit of my family’s labor in the garden that rewarded me ten times over.
It is Labor Day weekend. Do you have a labor of love or family treasure to pass along? It could direct or change someone’s life.