Oh, Yes, I Can…and Freeze…and Cook…and Garden in the Heart of Texas

For as far back as I can remember, my family has grown gardens in Texas. My grandfather grew vegetables and he was very good at it. He even received a letter in 1953 from then United States Senator Lyndon B. Johnson congratulating him on producing the first bushel of green bell peppers in his community for the second year in a row. And, oh, the meals my grandmother prepared from veggies produced from his garden.

20130625-193001.jpgGrowing up, some of our gardens were small, consisting of just a few plants for our own enjoyment and others covered a number of acres. The fruits and vegetables of our labor were sold at the farmer’s market for others to enjoy. We grew gardens in the Panhandle Plains of West Texas and the Piney Woods of East Texas. As a teen and during several summers in college, I worked in Livingston, picking, washing and loading produce to sell at the farmer’s market in Beaumont. I learned a lot about sales back then, because when produce was ripe in our neighborhood, it was ready everywhere. We had to compete with our fellow farmers. Any product we didn’t sell at the market had to be either eaten, frozen or canned. Along side my aunt, we blanched corn on the cob or cut it off, cooked it in real butter and froze it. We froze peas, made soups, and canned salsa.

All summer, nothing was more wonderful than looking out our front door and deciding what we wanted to have for supper. We could choose from tomatoes, a variety of peas and beans, greens, onions, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash, corn, hot and sweet peppers, okra, eggplant, potatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe. The only thing missing from our fields was some kind of protein.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve continued the planting tradition in small quantities, as the backyards I’ve owned have been too small for anything larger. With that said, I’ve planted produce in raised beds in North Texas and in containers in the Hill Country. Some years have been more productive than others. This year has been no exception. My garden is producing but very sporadically, so last week I visited Austin’s SFC Farmer’s Market. Gone are the days of plain white tables under metal roof sheds, like I was used to seeing. White tents sprang from the green grass, featuring your usual fruits and vegetables, along with meats, eggs, cappuccino, herbs, baked goods, cheeses, composting workshops and live music. I even witnessed a parade with a mix of adults and children celebrating the seasons in Mardi Gras fashion, with bright costumes, colorful signs and a marching jazz band.
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20130623-200423.jpgAfter a very entertaining morning, I brought back some fabulous produce and I did something I love. I got in touch with my domestic self and I canned. I thought I might be a little rusty, but I realized, yes, I can can! Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

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It’s hard to believe the tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, carrots, cucumbers, Habaneros, and peaches are now salsa, pickles, jellies and preserves.

I’ve talked to many people who tell me they have no idea how to can, so I included pictures of the actual process itself. I won’t go into detail on how to make anything. You can Google it. (That even felt weird to type). I encourage you to give canning a try. You might just learn something.
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For information on the Austin market, visit http://www.sfcfarmersmarket.org. If you don’t live near Austin, check your community for produce sold in your area or try out your own green thumb.

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Categories: Travel Texas

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