Berries for Birds-Vegetables for Us

Whilst the plants, bushes, and trees of our new garden in the backyard spend their first summer trying to figure out where they are and why; as they strive to put out their roots into the composition of new loam, top soil, and mulch, I sit back and berate them all for not growing fast enough.  I’ve been bathing them with various degrees of over and under watering in an attempt to urge Mother Nature on.  It turns out she is a real control freak and is not overly impressed with my ignorance in horticulture.  The wonderful world of nature has also brought to our new yard an onslaught of funguses and bugs.  Our immature flora seem to wonder if they really want to live beside their new plant neighbours.

Thankfully, to help keep my spirits up, the mature trees and bushes that remain from before our backyard rebirth are producing fruit of all sorts.  The berries are blushing with colour as they prepare for the onslaught of hungry birds in the Fall.  They will clean the food off the stems in preparation for the cold of winter or their long migration south.

This brings me around to what I want to write about and that is 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.  Both in Regina and at the lake, the fall harvest brought to our table some wonderful tastes.  While 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 will remind you of the following:

🥦 Broccoli that had a distinct odour that was like……broccoli.

🥦 Carrots that were sweet and tender.

🥦 Corn on the cob that was sensuous when you bit into it.

🥦 Tomatoes that actually had an odour unique to that fruit and whose skins were tender and thin, unlike the imported variety we get for most of the year that have skins like red leather.  And that rich tomato taste—excellent.

🥦 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, 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, 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.

My dad was a dentist.  Living in Regina in the depression of the 1930’s, he was often faced with famers who needed dental work for their family, but had little money.  Dad was a kind person and would accept bartered, farmed food for dental work.  Although I hadn’t yet arrived in the 30’s, he later told me that he knew he wasn’t putting money away for the future, but thought we were probably the best fed family in the city during those tough years.

These days, shopping at the local grocery store during the cornucopia time of the late summer and fall doesn’t 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.

Thankfully, local farmers’ markets exist as well as the large, commercial farmers’ markets in Calgary.  In Cochrane we 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.  Walking around and handling these offerings at the farmers’ markets I smell those fresh food odours again and it sends my thoughts back to Fall in Saskatchewan and wonderful tastes at our table.  These days we buy as much as we think we can eat in a few days and hustle it home to prepare for our table today.

Shopping local at the Cochrane Farmers’ Market

Almost every fresh food stall had the odours of dill and cucumbers filling the air.  Ah, summer memories…..