The flavor of life is something that should be savored. Especially if it is coming out of your garden!
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Lately I have noticed how much my tastes have changed. Growing up, the only ‘canned’ items were usually purchased at a grocery store. Home canned items were limited to Aunt Dot’s Peach Preserves and Aunt Evelyn’s Sweet Pickles. I still remember how delicious those two items were.
Although Mom would buy pickles in a jar, rarely did she ever buy peach preserves. Consequently, there wasn’t much chance of comparison. All I did know was that I preferred Aunt Evelyn’s pickles.
The First Harvest
The other day, I picked the first of our snap beans, a few pods of okra and two Roma tomatoes. If I threw in a couple of baked chicken breasts, I knew I could create a delicious meal. I washed and snapped the beans. Fresh potatoes from Danny were cut. In a pan, I fried some bacon, and added some chopped onions. These were sautéed until they were soft.
Then I tossed in the beans and potatoes, a little seasoning and covered all with water. While they simmered, I prepared the rest of the meal. Steamed okra. Sliced tomatoes. Chicken dipped in melted butter and then tossed in herbed bread crumbs mixed with a little parmesan cheese. Next thing you know, dinner was served.
As I feasted on that meal, it hit me that I hadn’t eaten any green beans in quite a while. The last batch I took out of the freezer was sometime last winter. After a bit of thought I realized why. I don’t like green beans in a can. It doesn’t matter the brand, they just do not have the same flavor or texture that home grown snap beans do.
The reason behind that is, I can control the quality of the beans that I grow myself. As I pick the beans off the vine, I can choose the ones that are ripe, and leave the ones that aren’t. If any have over-ripened, I can pull them off and feed them to the cows or chickens as a treat, or leave them alone and use them for seeds for next year’s crop.
As I wash them, I can sort them again, if necessary. And when I snap them, I can toss the ones that are ‘soggy’ and don’t ‘snap’ when they are broken. By the time they hit the canning jar, freezer bag or my pot, I know without a doubt that those beans are about as fresh and delicious as you can get.
The same goes for all the other vegetables and fruits I preserve. My tomato sauce tastes like freshly pureed tomatoes, and don’t have that over-salted slightly metallic taste that some commercially canned sauces do. I can taste the apples and blueberries in my jam. Peach halves taste like fruit fresh from the trees and not like the heavy sugar-syrup in those purchased at the grocery store.
It Just Isn’t the Same
Don’t laugh, but the last few times we have gone out to eat, I have noticed that the food at a steak restaurant tastes all but the same like the food at a Mexican joint or Chinese buffet. To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of flavor in any of them, other than the heavy spices at the Mexican place.
However, I don’t go to restaurants to eat a jar of spices. I would actually like to taste beef, chicken, pork or fish. The spices should be subtle but complimentary to whatever food is on my plate – not a method of hiding it.
This is one of my favorite life lessons on the farm: To have a garden of one’s own. To preserve the harvest you have worked so hard to produce. To till the earth, pull the weeds, tie up the plants, train the vines, and to wash and prep the produce. To add the flavor of life to my day. This, my friends, is the true sweet flavor of life.