The Fruits of August


I’m establishing myself as an urban locavor (urban forager, frugal ecologist)  and now I remember the joys and fatigue of August. It’s about putting food by for the winter and early spring months when there is almost no local fresh food available. I’m fondly gazing at pints of freshly canned peaches, apricot salsa, jam and jelly of several varieties and feeling both proud and somewhat overwhelmed. Tired also comes to mind since this activity starts when my day normally ends.

I’ve frozen broccoli and green beans – though I’m not finished by any means – and want to find more time to can tomatoes, beets, and make sour kraut. The full branches of the plum tree out front is calling to me and I’ve got permission to pick the wonderful  heirloom peaches a couple of blocks from here. I am waiting somewhat patiently for the elderberries to ripen as well.

This is the month when the garden overflows with all the good things at once. Of course there has been a steady flow of produce since early greens and peas in April. However August is the time of almost overwhelming abundance of tomatoes, peppers, beans, greens, and corn demanding to be put by for the months of  fallow, empty gardens.

Now, that last part is not entirely true since with good planning there will be the second crop of carrots and beets left in the ground with rows of  parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas. Kale and Brussels sprouts taste sweetest and best after the first frost touches them and with a nice heap of straw covering the rows, all can be picked or dug well into December, maybe longer depending on the depth of the frost.

I think back to my childhood when we put enough food by for a family of five to last until the garden produced again in the spring. I’m definitely small potatoes compared to that. Just for starters we canned 150 quarts of tomatoes, and 150 quarts of various fruits (peaches, pears, plums, cherries, applesauce, etc). We rented freezer lockers for all the veggies and meats since our chest freezer couldn’t hold it all. It was a constant daily and nightly ‘meditation’ of picking, shucking, shelling, blanching, pickling and cooking. We used the porch, the summer kitchen and the winter kitchen to maximum capacity for several months, filling every shelf  in the cellar with canned goods and making weekly trips to the freezer lockers down the road.

The smells were amazing, ranging from mouth watering to eye stinging depending on what was cooking! Vinegar and cloves vied with fruit syrups; sour kraut warred with applesauce. In the end the astounding bounty of the harvest surrounded us with such visible abundance that it mitigated the bone-weariness of endless activity. When the first hoar frost crisped and sweetened the kale, the end of the season was finally in sight. With a satisfied sigh of relief, we settled in for the winter.

Now, here in Denver, I want to work my way back to canning, freezing, preserving, drying, and pickling Summer for the Winter. I want to use the local abundance of fruit trees lining the streets, summer farms and small ranches to supply myself so that I again know where my meals come from. I figure it will take a year to get this up and running, so I might as well start now. That’s why I’m staring at my 16 pints of pink and golden peaches with affection and glee. I’m back in the saddle again!



You always remember so much more than I do about ‘when we were young’. As I can fruit, I think about the bushels of pears and apples in the cellar that were available for a snack after school. Preserving your own food provides a living connection to this earth and her bounty. No one will ever offer more nor be more forgiving than our Mother.

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