Kitchen Gardening

The Thrill of the Harvest

Harvest time is a great time to reflect on why we do what we do, and why we love our passion so much.

Photo/Illustration: All photos: Greg Holdsworth

As we wrap up the first month of Summer, I and most of my gardening comrades here in North Texas have now put in between five to seven months of planning, preparation, and growing time into this year’s crops. Not to mention in Winter continuing to tend to the cold-hardy Fall crops that ‘weathered the storm’ and were still producing. Since I was gonna give my cold frame and Wall-O-Waters a tougher test this year, I started my tomato and pepper seeds at least a week before Christmas, two weeks earlier than I did last year.

So, it is perfectly understandable why a few of us are ready for a ‘break’. For the most part, all of the cool-season Spring crops are now a memory. From radishes, spinach, peas, onions, chard, greens—and who knows how many varieties of lettuce—there were enough salads to outfit a small restaurant or cafeteria.

Before those crops even got a foothold in their respective raised beds, the Summer stuff was going in. Whether it be direct-seeded stuff like cucumbers, beans, and melons, or the tomato and pepper transplants I mentioned earlier; the plots were filling up fast.

Fast-forward to today. The 100-plus-degree heat indexes, mosquito assaults, and miniature droughts are the status quo here. Gardeners and plants alike are feeling the effects (at least we can step inside an air-conditioned house for our water breaks).

For the most part, we have about a month to sit back and take this all in before we are in our Fall planting schedule (tomatoes, round two anyone?). We’ll enjoy produce in a way only we gardeners can, and then hand out the extras to lucky friends, neighbors, relatives, and even strangers.

Through all of this, we are now being rewarded for our back-breaking work and sweat. We are being reminded as to why we do what we do, and the fulfillment of our efforts is coming full-circle.

Take the local community garden I volunteer for. I was told during our last monthly workday that we have harvested 1,100 pounds of produce for the year so far. This is comfortably above where we need to be at this point in the season to meet our goal of 3,000 pounds for the food pantries we support. In addition, I have contributed several dozen pounds of produce out of my home garden to this same cause. The only thrill I’m missing is seeing the looks on the faces of the folks whose lives we’ve touched and helped.

Though I’ve almost forgotten the harvests from my very first garden over two decades ago, I still get a renewed thrill every year with the new varieties or crops I try. Two come to mind immediately—my Pattypan/Scallop squash that has done very well, and the Israeli/Ogen melons that are coming soon.

A case-in-point to leave you with: I’ve had two different people actually wonder why the cucumbers I gave them had spines on them. Spines! It was a firm reminder of how so many of us have grown (no pun intended) to accept the veggies you find in the grocery stores as the best you can possibly have. What a crime.

So let’s remember when we’re harvesting, it’s cherished time indeed.

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