Woodworking again: Interminable garden bounty

By Dave Wood
Posted 4/10/24

One of the many lessons we’ve learned among the joys and sorrows of being unquashable planters, is that if you’re devoted to putting seeds in the ground and oohing and aahing at the …

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Woodworking again: Interminable garden bounty


One of the many lessons we’ve learned among the joys and sorrows of being unquashable planters, is that if you’re devoted to putting seeds in the ground and oohing and aahing at the wonderful works of nature, it can take a toll on your conscience. What to do with the buckets of multiplier onions, the bushels of sweet corn, the mounds of pea vines? It’s a crime (a sin?) to let it go to waste! Kill Mother Nature’s offspring? Horrors! 

Years back, when I informed my father that we would like a ¼ acre garden on our newly purchased hobby farm, he shook his head but obliged us. Anything to bring his citified son close to the soil. We soon realized that it takes lots of seeds, transplants, and tubers to fill up all that dirt, but, undaunted, we plunged ahead, filling long rows with beautiful red striped cranberry beans shelled by our neighbor, the beauteous Madeline Hagen, and scads of marvelous multiplier onions given to us by another neighbor, Henry Sylla. Of course, both produced huge yields, of which we were very proud, inducing me to separate every scallion bulb into its eight separate parts for next year’s garden. Talk about prudent, but you never could tell when old Henry might bite the rich loam of Dissmore Coulee. To make matters worse, I continued saving them until we had literally bushels, which we couldn’t give away because our neighbors said they were “too hard to peel.”

The same went for goes for Madeline’s beautiful scarlet beans. She was no spring chicken either, so Ruth and I laboriously CANNED them, after which they languished in our Minneapolis root cellar for years alongside jar after jar of string beans, which Ruth insisted on canning after we discovered that the blanched and frozen ones tasted like uncured silage. 

In the following season, still sticking with the 250-foot row of green beans, we learned about the virtue of barter. One night at a supper club called The Midway, I complained to Mavis Anderson about how our bean crop was overwhelming us. Mavis replied, “Huh! You think you’ve got problems. I’ve got nine kids with voracious appetites and so tomorrow I’m stuck with the job of butchering a hundred heavy hens!” 

At that moment, waitress Ramona Sygulla appeared with my order of batter-fried chicken gizzards, a specialty of Midway. “You eat those?” asked Mavis.

“You bet! They’re delicious.”

“I wish my kids thought so. All they can say is ‘oof-da! Chicken Lizards again!’”  

And so it was that the Anderson-Wood Pact was signed and sealed wherein Mavis Anderson would bring the kids out to Dissmore Coulee to pick our bean patch clean as a whistle, and in return we’d come out to Irvin Coulee to pick up 100 chicken lizards—er, gizzards.

So we learned lots from our giant farm garden. One summer we despaired over a huge crop of sweetcorn which ripened during the month we spent in Europe. Not even hogs would eat them. So we left the ears on their stalks a few more weeks until the kernels were rock-hard and ready for chucking into a borrowed crank-propelled, single cob shucker. Then we ground the kernels in a Waring Blender, after which we sifted the stuff  in an ancient flour sifter to produce a delicate corn meal, which we froze in plastic bags and enjoyed breakfast muffins for several winters until we moved to River Falls, after which we switched to round boxes of corn meal with William Penn’s picture on each label, then saved the empty boxes until spring when they served as fine protectors of tender young transplants.

Does this mean we’ve stopped canning and that the Ball Brothers of Muncie are heading for bankruptcy? Nope, we’re still canning a plethora of raspberries, from which Ruth makes jam in big jars for those muffins, small jars for friends and relatives. Same goes for green tomatoes, which go into mincemeat, based on her Grandma Schwarz’s recipe. Even when we’re tired of our bounty, we soldier on. By September, we’re usually full to the brim with red tomatoes in caprese salad, so it falls to me to make my mother’s cream of tomato soup, thickened with white sauce. I freeze 6-ounce portions in cheap plastic cups. Take that, Ball Brothers!

Dave would like to hear from you even if you don’t have a recipe for sweet and sour kohl rabi! Phone him at 715-426-9554.

Woodworking again, Dave Wood, gardens, bounty, canning, column