Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ambivalence over the harvest

My peaches from the harvest
September is upon us and today, the day I am writing this, is Labor Day.  Bumble is enjoying the day off and he comes into the computer room where I am typing and says, “Close your eyes and open your mouth.”  I do just that. And in an instant I recognize the sweetness coming from the pubescent and globular textures of fresh raspberries he has picked from our baby bush and dropped upon my tongue.  Glorious burst of what magenta would probably taste like.

It has been a very long hot summer in Denver. Right now I can barely keep up with using the ripened fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants. Yes, another ratatouille dish and my old cucumber and vinegar salad for dinner.  For me, harvest time comes with a tremendous ambivalence. On one hand it is a blessing I am very grateful for—all the bounty that has manifested from the fruits of our gardening labor— sometimes more than we can use readily. I barely need to visit the grocery store these days and we are eating many more helpings of vegetables and fruits every day. Yet on the other hand, harvest time marks the end of the grand growing season, and I know that one day, when the last eggplant, cucumber or tomato is consumed, there will be no more. No more organically-grown vegetables and fruits from this tiny piece of land until next year.  There is a sadness that comes over me.  I know that this creative process of watching food grow and mature and fill one’s stomach will cease for a few months.

Cucumbers, zucchinis, onions harvested

Canning and pickling is a wonderful way to extend the gifts from the garden ‘tis true, but the canning process makes for a hot and sweaty kitchen.  Freezing a few items for later on is easy. I freeze my basil leaves in tiny sandwich bags, first rinsing and drying the leaves and then divvying up the leaves into several ziplock bags. I make sure to squash out any air in the bag to avoid freezer burn. They store like flat envelopes in my freezer. Later I unzip a bag of frozen leaves and crumble them with my hands before they land gently in my tomato sauce. They are as green as the day they were picked and almost as fragrant.

Peaches on pancakes

Generally Bumble and I consume most everything we grow—we have large appetites for fresh food.  The harvest gets whipped up into some soup or dish that I have concocted. When there is a surplus, family and neighbors are the beneficiaries, whether they want to be or not. The little Green-gage freestone peach tree Bumble planted for me seven years ago gave us the juiciest, most delectable fruits this year.  These treasures were completely free from any pest damage (except one or two that were taken by the squirrels).  It was peach week here a while back, and we had peaches on everything: whole wheat pancakes, chicken breasts, and in a salsa atop cheese quesadillas. Yesterday was the apple harvest.

My apple harvest on Labor Day

The apples made their way into an apple crisp (I am hopeless making pie crust). Tonight it will be brie cheese and apple slices, tomorrow fried apples and pork chops. The apples will also benefit our neighbors when we bring them paper bags filled with these tart green balls.

It is such a strange feeling this ambivalence—the joy and gratitude of at all the gifts of the harvest mixed with the sadness for a season ending.  The yin and the yang Taoist Taijitu, the push and pull of the tides, the sun and the moon, all signifying the opposing forces—the ambivalence of life.