Back in 2018 the plants, bushes, and trees of our rebuilt garden in the backyard spent their first summer trying to figure out where they were and why. As they put out their roots into the composition of new loam, top soil, and mulch, I used to sit back and berated them all for not growing fast enough. I bathed them with water and fertiliser to urge Mother Nature on. It turned out she was and still is a control freak and not overly impressed with my ignorance in
horticulture. My horticulture knowledgeable friend urged me to be kinder to our new greenery and expect them to take three years to start displaying their real, maturing look.
Sure enough, this past summer is the third year and the garden looked marvellous. The plants seem to have forgiven my previous bad behaviour.
Thankfully, during those three years, to help keep my spirits up, the mature trees and bushes in the older parts of our garden kept producing fruit of all sorts. This past summer the berries were flushed with colour and the birds were happy.
Which brings me around to writing about the joy of being able to eat the year’s bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit….with abandon. I’ve written about this before. With the risk that I might be boring the heck out of you, I’m going to write about it again.
In my earlier years, I lived in Regina and spent the summers at Lake Katepwa in the Qu’Appelle Valley. Both in Regina and at the lake, the fall harvest brought to our table some wonderful tastes. At the lake, we were lucky to be just down the road from a farmer who grew and sold a significant selection of vegetables. Whilst the Calgary area farms have lots to offer, for a very short time I might add, the produce of the Saskatchewan prairies was special. For those who have experienced it, I’ll remind you of the following:
Broccoli had a distinct odour that was like……broccoli.
Carrots were sweet and tender.
Corn on the cob was almost sensuous when you bit into it.
Tomatoes that actually had an odour unique to that fruit and whose skins were tender and thin. The imported variety we get for most of the year look wonderful, but have skins like red leather and are tasteless.
Cucumbers that had their unique, fresh smell.
Potatoes that smelled of the earth and taste-wise supported everything they were served with.
Strawberries and raspberries, large, tender, and sweet.
Peaches (albeit from BC) that were tender, tasty, and sweet, and their juice ran off your chin when you bit into them.
Cherries, sweet and juicy, again from BC.
The list went on and on. Beans, peas, dill, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, beets, onions, winter squash, spinach, radishes, chives, celery—all good; all with a noticeable fresh smell as a precursor to the fresh taste. No, there weren’t peppers, fancy lettuce, cantaloupe, mangos, kiwi fruit, or artichokes back in the 1950’s, but I really didn’t care. Those all came from what we thought of, in those years, as ‘far away’ if, in fact, we even knew they existed. The local potpourri of flavours of the local food was quite enough for our family, thank you very much.
These days, shopping at the local grocery store during the cornucopia time of the late summer and fall doesn’t necessarily mean that locally grown foodstuffs will be offered. I understand, those chain stores have contracts for the supply of ‘fresh’ food from producers that can grow these vegetables all year and can’t drop those contracts for two months in order to offer local produce. Besides, the local folk probably couldn’t supply the volumes needed for the big cities. The consequence is that much of what is offered at the chain grocery stores is from the same producers in September as in February. However, this year some local grocery stores made an effort to stock some truly local food. I was pleased to see some consideration given to Alberta farmers.
Thankfully, local farmers’ markets exist as well as the large, commercial farmers’ markets in Calgary. During the summer and Fall, we in Cochrane have our weekly farmers’ market and, as an added bonus, a large truck pulls into a parking lot nearby and offers all sorts of fresh food that was picked in BC just a few days previous. When I walk around our market and handle the offerings from Alberta farmers, I smell those fresh food odours again and it sends my thoughts back to Fall in Saskatchewan and wonderful tastes at our table. In the Fall, we buy as much as we think we can eat in a few days and hustle it home to prepare for our table.