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