Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the air.  Of course, in Utah, we had the beginning of spring in February, when the temperatures would get in the 50’s, then two days later it would be down to the 20’s.  My lilac bushes are budding up and preparing to share their delightful scent in my neighborhood.

Spring is my favorite time of the year, as I was born a spring person.  Growing up in central Illinois, it was when the farms began coming to life.  Baby animals were coming into the world, flowers are starting to pop up, trees are blossoming, and the farms are preparing the soil to be planted.  The days are growing longer, the nights growing shorter, and the world is renewed. And, of course, my favorite holiday is Easter, as I swear, my grandmother was an Easter Bunny in disguise.  She loved spring as well, and she shared the love with everyone. It was just a magical time to me, and I believe it always will be.

Carrot vegetable

I know, over simplistic.  I’ve never been a complex person.  Simple and routine are pretty much who I am.

With spring trying to shoo winter away, my thoughts are turning to putting in a garden.  It has been years since I have put one in, and fortunately, have obtained “slave labor” from a dear friend and her daughters to put in the garden.  Planning on putting in tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, peas, green beans, maybe some corn.  When we remodeled my daughter’s bathroom, I had the old bathtub taken around to the back yard.  My intent is to make this into an herbal garden.   I plan to put in a peach tree and some more berry bushes (I have 2 gooseberry bushes and a white grape vine).  And some strawberries.

gooseberries

It has been years now, but when my daughter was young, I made a lot of jams and jellies, and put up other produce for the year.  Growing up with corn fields all around my hometown, we always put up corn.  My mom would can green beans, peas, corn, tomatoes.  Gooseberries were frozen, along with corn on the cob.  And my grandparents would go to a relative’s in southern Illinois and come back with a van load of peaches and strawberries.  Peaches were canned and strawberries made into jam or frozen.  Yes, we had a huge chest freezer.

animal from strawberry

So, with all this talk about gardening and putting up food for the winter, I thought to reach out to my sister by heart in England, asking her what sort of produce would be planted in their corner of the world.  What sort of veggies and fruit would have been available to Jane Austen and her beloved characters?

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My dear “sister” Kay told me that in the early 1800’s, most of the veggies would have been root type: potatoes, turnips, onions, carrots, rutabaga (suede).  They would also have cabbage, kale, leeks, and in the winter time, brussel sprouts.

The fruit that was available at that time in England were apples, plums, pears, damsons (a plum family fruit), and berries.  Lots of berries.  Blackberries, strawberries, black currants, gooseberries (I love), and raspberries.  Most of the fruit would be made into jams and jellies, and enjoyed all year long.

Kay said that the root veggies would be stored in pits in the garden, to be dug up during the winter.  They had runner beans, but to preserve them, they used a lot of salt.

It was rare to have orange trees in a conservatory type building, as they were difficult to grow.  During that time, pineapples were being introduced, and, like oranges, were difficult to grow.  They were signs of great wealth to have such treats.

So, what sort of produce is grown in your neck of the woods?  Do you put in a garden?  Or do you prefer to visit the local farmers market to find delicious fruits and veggies? Do you can produce, make jams and jellies, salsa, or other yummy food from the produce?  If so, let me know if you need a taste tester. Just kidding.

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Happy spring to everyone and hope that your spring is productive and beautiful.      1a907181d89ffc247f525e560ab7a064

21 Responses to Spring is in the Air

  1. Here in eastern Pennsylvania we can grow many fruits and vegetables. There are large and small “farmers’ markets” nearby if you want to buy direct from the grower and some places where you can pick your own. In the past I had my own fruit trees, blueberry and raspberries bushes and garden in which I grew carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, beans, sugar snap peas and canned some of those. We would go out in the mornings to pick blueberries for our cereal. We now live in a condominium community with no space for gardens so I no longer grow my own. Growing up we had a very large garden and orchard and my father was an organic farmer in those days. We canned a lot and had two large chest freezers.

  2. I love spring even though it is allergy season. Lilac is my favorite flowering bush. When we moved back to KY from Kansas, I left the most fragrant lilac bush I ever had. I still miss that bush. As a kid I remember bushel baskets of veggies coming straight out of the garden. We’d brush off the dirt and eat cucumbers and tomatoes raw before grandma could make pickles and relishes. Those were the days. Thanks for the reminder. Have a blessed day.

  3. I do a garden in a smallish way even though we have a good bit of land. But a lot of it is boggy. I have my own small patch. I set potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas, lettuce, scallions, large onions, radish and cabbage. I tried runner beans last year but they ran away. I also had a disaster with cauliflower.
    I also grow raspberries, blueberries and gooseberries. Last year I had a lovely crop of gooseberries. A week later they were nearly all gone. Could not understand what had happened until one evening my husband caught our Irish Wolfhound helping himself to them!! They were so sour at the time I don’t know how he ate them or didn’t get belly ache. He loves them. We’ll have to cover them this year I think!

    • Our dogs licked once and gave us the “you’re kidding, right” look. We have problems with the birds getting to them. To get those in down under, we have to have 2 of us, one using a shovel handle to pull the branches up while the other picks.

  4. I always got the biggest kick (coming from a Swedish background–yes Smorgasbord is very big even now on Christmas Eve…if you get stuck nearby at that time let me know) that Rutabagas are were called/still called “swedes.” Yes, it is the National Tuber of Sweden!

    • In “The Keeper” as Thomas lay on his deathbed, I had Darcy bring vodka from Princess Lieven (she stole it from her husband’s stash) and lemons from the Darcy conservatory so they could build a “martini the way his friend Mr. Fleming like it…shaken, not stirred.”

      • I first hit the reference in what I refer to as “The Swedish Church Ladies’ Cookbook” from 1943. Passed to me from my Grandmother and Mother. One or two of the recipes referred to “swedes.” My mom had helpfully penciled in (probably in 1947 right after she married my father) “rutabaga.”

  5. I LOVE gooseberries. My late Grandmother (way back when, I am older than you) had at least 6 bushes. Now, I can’t find them at all. However, I am a Winter person (born in November). I love it when the air is crisp and cold and snow covers and sparkles on the ground.

    • We have a place local that has them. I bought one for my dad 25 years ago, and a friend of mine sent me one from Illinois 24 years ago. They were transplanted 15 years ago when we moved. They are sooooooo good.

  6. This will be my first year without a garden. We sold our house last summer so we are in a condo this year. I have joined a CSA and so look forward to mystery baskets of produce goodies all spring/summer! I am primarily vegetarian so I liked to grow as much as I could which saved on buying veggies. I also can and make jams. Hubby was just commenting last weekend that we have completed the strawberry jam and there are only a couple jars of blackberry and one apple butter left. LOL Signal for me to make more. When we had our house, the people across the road had peach trees and blackberry vines so I would always have a large donation of those to make jams from but this year I’ll have to buy whatever I make. I think that’s the ONE thing I miss about not being in the country anymore. Happy gardening!!

    • Being part of a farmers market, and hosting a seed swap annually, there are some really interesting ways to grow inside. Container gardening is really interesting way to garden indoors.

  7. Thanks for a lovely post Melanie. We’ve got a lovely spring day here in Yorkshire today. The cherry tree in our back garden is coming into blossom and our blackthorn hedge is covered too, which augers well for the crop of sloes later in the year. Hubby makes them into sloe gin and sloe wine and I pinch a few to make some sloe jelly. We’ve got quite a large garden – about a third of an acre – and some of it is turned over to growing fruit and veg. We’ve got potatoes, parsnips, runner beans, broad beans, two varieties of french beans, peas, lettuce, rhubarb, blackcurrants, redcurrants, white currants, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries (wild and cultivated) and in the greenhouse there’s chillies and tomatoes. I haven’t had to buy any potatoes, parsnips or beans for years! We’ve several large freezers for most of the fruit and veg and the potatoes keep well in one of our stone outbuildings which is cool and dark. A lot of the fruit gets made into yet more wine but I usually make sure I’ve got enough set aside for jams and/or jellies, too. Oh and we’ve got four apples trees as well; two each of two different varieties of cooking apples and they look a picture when they’re in blossom too.

    If I could send you a bottle of hubby’s slow gin across the Atlantic, Melanie, I would! He makes two sorts; one is just normal which is sugar dissolved in gin and then the sloes are added and allowed to steep for about three months. It’s quite sweet so you don’t need a lot at any one time and it makes a lovely, if alcoholic, cough/sore throat medicine! The other sort is made the same but he puts in a couple of whole red chillies, so when you drink it you get the sweetness still but then a slow heat comes through from the chillies. It shouldn’t work, but by golly it does!

    Hope you have fun enjoying all of the produce you eventually get to grow.

  8. I don’t grow any fruit or veg as the soil in my garden is mostly clay and when we first moved here we tried but the only things that grew had already been enjoyed by slugs!!! Where I used to live when I got married we grew loads of veggies and herbs, it was wonderful to go out and dig up or pick what you needed for dinner.
    When I was small my mum used to make the best marmalade ever using oranges, lemon and grapefruit. My job was to mince all the peel after she had squeezed them. This was in the fifties so it all had to be done without the benefit of processors etc. I have never been able to find a marmalade as nice as that.
    We also used to grow rhubarb (it was like a mini forest in the corner of the garden!)
    When they were older my parents got a greenhouse and grew the most amazing tomatoes and strawberries. I myself am not green fingered and now suffer from allergies if exposed to grass pollen etc so I stay away.
    I enjoyed this post so thank you Melanie.

    • I can remember shucking corn until you thought your arms would fall off. But in the middle of winter, oh was it wonderful to enjoy. And most of the produce has such delicious flavor in comparison to some you get at the stores (especially in comparison to hot house tomatoes).

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