As the snow piles up outside my door, the first seed catalog arrived. I look forward to the arrival of the catalogs every year. While I no longer purchase seed, I enjoy just reading the catalogs. There is a ton of information in them.
Who wouldn't want to be able to grow the beautiful produce that is pictured in the catalog? I went through my edition page by page to see what it had to offer. The varieties that are offered today are far different from those that used to be included. They also offer many garden-related products.
I think not only of the gardens that my family planted, but of the ones planted by the neighbors. At that time I knew almost all of my neighbors, but even the country is different today. People keep to themselves.
Ann R. Swanson
One year a neighbor planted red, white and blue potatoes. He was very proud when he had the colorful produce to show for his efforts. He called me so that I could get some of his blue potatoes, so I could cook them up for the children to enjoy. The children were surprised, but they decided that they did not taste any different from the white ones they were used to.
Another neighbor brought us our first taste of Swiss chard. She told me she was having trouble getting her dad to let it grow long enough to be ripe, so one day she picked some that was ripe to share with us. I love fresh greens with a little bit of salt, pepper and vinegar. They cook so quickly.
One year I canned beets and the beet greens. My husband told me he liked the greens even better than he liked the beets and that was going some. He loved beet pickles. I also found a recipe to make raspberry jelly using beet juice to add color. We never wasted anything.
I bought a dehydrator that I have used on many occasions. I bought it the year that canning lids were scarce. We had a lot of plums to can, so it was very helpful. You fill it with food, turn it on, and let it sit until it dries everything out. One year I entered both dried fruit and dried vegetables in the fair and won ribbons on both of them. We really enjoyed the vegetable soup that I cooked afterward. The fruit I used up in our oatmeal.
My father-in-law planted a McIntosh apple tree in his yard. It was actually right in front of the trailer that we lived in while we lived on the farm. It grew to be very large, but he refused to trim it. Now that my son owns the farm he trims the tree, so it is easier to get at the apples. What I liked best about the apples that tree produced was that they were pink clear through. I left the skins on and had beautiful pink applesauce to can. Of course, we did not spray the fruit, so we did not worry about insecticides. The apples had some spots, but I just cut those out.
A friend and I were talking about elderberries. I noticed there were elderberry plants in the catalog. They used to grow wild along the side of the road. The children and I used to pick elderberries by the bagful. We just picked them and brought them home to clean. You had to separate the berries from the spidery blossom. There were a lot of tiny stems that made their way into the berries. You were busy picking them out before you could use them or freeze them.
One year that I taught at a rural school one of the mothers picked the elderberries that grew around the playground and brought them to me. I was so thankful to get them because by then some of the familiar places no longer had elderberries growing.
My father-in-law loved elderberry pot pie. I made him some when he was in the hospital. The nurses complained to us that he was not eating. I got a smile out of him when he saw the elderberries. There was not a drop left when he was finished.
I noticed a pressure canner in the seed catalog. My husband bought me one, but he did not buy it from the seed catalog. I had a rather small model, but it was enough for what I needed to do. It made part of my canning a lot easier. Things did not require as long to can.
What fun it was to look at the pictures and read about the varieties that are now offered. I found some familiar ones. They still sell Sparkle strawberries. I remember my grandmother preferred that variety. She believed they were sweeter and yielded well. Under the corn section I found Kandy Korn, Bodacious and Silver Queen. I knew all of those. I do not know if I have a favorite. The size of the ear and the maturity are the most important factors to me.
I also noticed that there was blue, pink and green popcorn. My son grew popcorn one year. It was fun for the family to see and use. I have also purchased colored popcorn during my travels. It pops up white, by the way.
The wonderful part about seed catalogs is that I get to be an armchair gardener while the snow is still swirling about. The catalog is a feast for the eyes, but I do not have to do anything to enjoy it. All I have to do is sit by my fireplace and dream. Spring is just about 80 days away.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.