Once again it is that time of the year when those of us who garden ask ourselves: Why did we plant two zucchini plants instead of just one? How many loaves of zucchini bread do we really use in a year's time? Why do the neighbors pull down the shades, turn off their lights, and lock the doors when they see someone approaching trying to pawn off the extra zucchini? How large a zucchini can you really grow? If I need to water the rest of the vegetable garden, how can I do that without watering the zucchini plant in hopes that it will die a natural death? Why is it so hard for me to pull out the plant when it is still producing even though it has become hard to give the produce away?
Zucchini is not the only over-producer in my garden. The cucumbers have also been good this year and the pickles made from them should last a while - I love them and go through about a pint every two weeks. Cucumbers also have a tendency to get too big and they seem to hide sometimes so that I don't get them picked in time. (The answer to some of the garden surplus is to remember the food shelf.)
Though slow in coming, we are now in the midst of the great tomato surplus so that it is canning or freezing to keep them for eating after growing season ends. Despite the improvements in varieties and the methods of growing tomatoes in hot houses during the winter, there is still no comparison between home-grown and store-bought. No, my tomatoes are not all the same size like those in the store nor are they all ripe at the same time, but the juiciness and flavor of home-grown is hard to match.
One last thing from my garden that I overplant is butternut squash, though usually folks we know have been willing if not eager to share that surplus. With squash the question I sometimes get from fellow gardeners is: Why butternut squash instead of acorn squash? The only good answer for that is that we all have different tastes.
Now who out there will help me after frost to clean up the garden so that it will be ready to go for next year? No one? Oh, Fiddlesticks!
Before doing any gardening other than getting the seed in the ground, I have usually been fortunate to reap a harvest from nature itself in the early spring. My favorite is wild raspberries, usually black rather than the very red raspberries found in the grocery store. For this I am dependent on friends who live on the banks of a river where the berries grow wild or in public parks. The berries are much smaller than domestic berries and they are often amidst other vines and brambles so if you pick, you can count on some scratches and pokes by thorns and such. I have estimated that it takes a good half an hour or more to pick enough berries in order to make a batch of jelly. Add to the picking time the time necessary to do the processing and even at minimum wage that would place the cost of a half-pint jar of jelly at about $7 covering cost of the jars and sugar and such as well. Valuable stuff! But it is sooo good.
For a number of years we have added further costs by shipping a couple of jars to various relatives around the country and that adds another $3 or so to the cost of a jar. I hope our relatives appreciate the jelly as much as I do.
At the end of August (like right now) the wild grape season begins and lasts several weeks. Again, dependence on getting the wild grapes is upon some public lands even though I have a friend here in Marshall who has wild grapes growing on the fence in his back yard and another friend in Cottonwood who has also offered the back yard fence where the wild grapes grow. I am sure there are other sources around other area lakes or along river banks. If you are going to pick wild grapes you must be careful to distinguish them from some other plant that has small dark purple fruit. Canadian Moonseed has a fruit that looks much like a grape, but is poisonous especially in large quantities. Grape identification is not really hard so this should be no problem - check it out on the internet - Google: Wild Grapes in Minnesota.
As opposed to raspberries, you probably would not like to eat wild grapes right off the vine your mouth will pucker up for days and I am not sure what it would do to your bowel system if you ate too many.
Yes, there is a commercial operation that grows wild grapes in a vineyard and yes, you can purchase wild grape jelly ($6.95 for a jar from Minnestalgia) as well as other wild fruit products like wild grape syrup and wild grape wine.
About 30 years ago we went canoeing on the Minnesota River starting just below the former NSP damn downriver from Granite Falls. It was late August or early September, but we had already gotten our supply of wild grapes. The couple we canoed with, however, had not yet picked theirs so as we canoed along the husband of this couple spotted grape vines hanging over the water so he canoed up under them where he began picking the grapes from the canoe and dropping them into the bottom of the canoe. After picking the low hanging ones he decided that he could stand in the canoe and reach even more grapes. That was not sufficient, so he decided that he could stand on the canoe seat. Even that was just shy of the grapes higher up so he decided standing on the gunnels of the canoe would be better yet.
Needless to say, the canoe flipped and dumped his wife and the grapes and the cook stove we were to use for lunch into the Minnesota River. Though she was a good swimmer the shock made it so that she would have drowned had we not yelled at the husband to save her - he was standing there laughing at his own foolishness. The water was only about three feet deep. I believe that was the last time she ever agreed to go canoeing with him.
Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!