Today’s harvest was the biggest of the summer thus far. It’s peak production time seasonally, but also we’re a bit behind on harvesting and processing due to the house and moving.
It was time to catch up today so we spent the morning in the garden. After lunch I washed, steamed, and froze about 14 quarts of haricots verts, 2 bags of chard, and 5 bags of kale. There’s a big bag of basil taunting me in the fridge, but we’ll see if I get to the pesto later this afternoon.
In shifting to a big garden a few years ago, we had to figure out how to scale up.
The first year we had a double plot at the community garden we took the same approach as the past: harvest one dinner’s worth of kale, a small bag of lettuce for a few days, pick one zucchini, a few tomatoes, a handful of snow peas, and so on. The problem is that when you return to the garden in 2 or 3 days, everything needs picked all over again–and then some. As all gardeners know, a nicely sized zucchini can become a Frankensquash in the space of a few days.
After a few weeks of adjusting to the new scale of gardening, we adopted a new tactic: choose a few vegetables and harvest them hard–pick all the green beans that are ready (not just enough for a meal or two), harvest all of the biggish chard leaves (else you will come back to chard trees a few days later). Then process them in mini-industrial processing mode (is that a contradiction?) when you get home. Yes, we learned this the hard way.
Before we moved up to The Land, I thought that once here we would have a daily garden practice (is that like a Zen practice but leafier?) to distribute the extra work over the week. If it’s Monday, it’s time to pick, wash, and roast beets. If it’s Tuesday, time to harvest and wash a bag of carrots. If it’s Wednesday, time to pick basil and make a big batch of pesto. And so forth. I suppose this puts a twist on the “If it’s Monday, it’s Brussels” European tour idea.
Turns out the vegetable-a-day approach is nice in theory, but rarely happens in practice. It ends up being too hot or too rainy. Or I got home from work too late (or have to leave early). Or I’m not in the mood to garden, even though I’d probably feel better if I did putter for a bit. Or whatever. In the end, both last summer and this summer we’re generally doing what we did in the community garden: spend a few hours several days a week in the garden doing a round of weeding, harvesting, and whatever else needs done, followed by processing over the next day or two.
Scaling up has required, then, a little time and reflection to make it work, but it pays off when the freezer and pantry are full of vegies, jam, salsa, and more for much of the year, not to mention the fresh vegetables all summer.