Photos by Hamlin Grange
It’s just days before Thanksgiving here in Ontario and the harvest is in.
So much to give thanks for, once you think about it. From having a family and a home to having food to eat.
At this time of year, I’m reminded of something my mother used to say: “You don’t have to be rich to plant a garden.” No matter how little money our families had, my mother and my husband’s mother always planted a garden. (My mother-in-law still does.) And I have lovely memories of their abundant produce that sometimes came from just a small plot.
Our own vegetable garden has yielded abundantly this summer and fall: eggplants, beans, peppers, onions, zucchini, cucumber and raspberry. And a profusion of tomatoes.
In a fit of late-day ambition, the pumpkin vine has even flowered again and put out several perfect tiny pumpkins.
It’s a Jamaican pumpkin, grown from a seedling that came from neighbours Paddy and Jacqui. Only one of its pumpkins made it to maturity this summer, and now, in early October, this intrepid vine is trying again. I thank it for the effort, but warn that it’s indulging in a lost cause.
“You’re in Canada now,” I tell it – one of the foolish ‘conversations’ I tend to have with plants and shrubs when I walk through the garden. “Cold weather is just around the corner.”
But last time I checked, the vine had sent out yet another flower, atop yet another tiny pumpkin.
We’re thankful for the one mature pumpkin it gave us, and decide to treat it as if it’s a whole crop. So we call Paddy and Jacqui to come get their share of “the pumpkin harvest”.
“What about the bird pepper I gave you?” asks Jacqui soon after she comes through the kitchen door.
“It got overshadowed by the asparagus and raspberry bushes”, my husband says. “We realized it too late. It’s just blooming now.”
“But the raspberry bushes you gave us a few years ago are on their second or third yield this summer,” I chime in, wanting to atone for our inept treatment of the bird pepper plant and our failure to get more than one mature pumpkin.
Along with a half of the pumpkin, we give Jacqui and Paddy tomatoes, herbs and garlic. They’re happy with their share of the harvest.
The garlic bulbs were yanked out of the soil in late summer, and left to dry in baskets and boxes. The biggest ones are given to family and friends like Paddy and Jacqui, the smaller ones left behind for our own use. These garlic bulbs have grown by themselves each year. Untended, even unplanted, offspring of the seeds of a single garlic plant my mother-in-law gave us years ago. Who was to know that garlic is so easy to grow?
Before the harvesting of the garlic, there was the red currant. For years the birds got to the currant bushes first, picking them clean before we got to them. So now we get to them first, leaving behind about a third of the crop for the birds. The result of that harvest is beautiful red jelly, a surprising taste of sweet and tart. It’s perfect with cheese, crackers, toast, ham or even as a baste for roast pork or chicken. Or Thanksgiving turkey.
Here’s my question to you: What are you harvesting from your garden, if you have one? And what will you be giving thanks for this Thanksgiving (whether it’s the Canadian one in a few days, the American one next month or wherever you are?) I’d love to hear from you.