The art of the barter

In late July, my friend Lise gave me a large bag of wild blueberries that she and her boyfriend had picked. Picking wild blueberries, which taste unlike any of the cultivated varieties, is backbreaking and tedious. In exchange for the wild blueberries, I gave Lise a couple of jars of my homemade elderflower jelly.

Also by bartering, this summer I obtained other fresh local produce, including some horseradish I needed for pickling beets, and a load of peppers when my entire crop failed. I received all these bounties in exchange for my homemade jams, jellies and pickles. Continue reading

Another sweet reason to garden

In August friends from Germany were visiting. They duly admired the huge red and orange bell peppers in my garden but what they marveled about most were the sweet juicy cantaloupes. In Germany, summers are often so chilly and sun-less that not even the tomatoes turn fully red, let alone crops like melons can be successfully grown.

After many years in the United Stated I had almost forgotten how astounded I was myself seeing a fig tree in the middle of New York City, and realizing that melons that taste and smell like melons are grown locally. Through my friends I appreciated anew our consistently warm to hot summers. Sure, as gardeners we battle against pests, droughts, floods and winter damage, and the recent change of the USDA hardiness zones due to global warming is worrisome. Yet this is a great climate for gardening, and I wish more people would do it.

Yesterday I harvested my one and only watermelon. It owes its existence entirely to a feeling of frustration. In early June, I picked up a couple of plants on my third trip to the nursery to replace the cantaloupe seedlings that had been devoured by the striped cucumber beetle.

Small as it is, the watermelon still makes me gleeful.  It is too special for eating the whole thing so I set aside some to make watermelon vodka for the first time. It will be the perfect drink for toasting the garden long after I will have put it to rest for winter.