As I pull up to park, I am greeted by the smiling faces of tall sunflowers leaning over the fence as if to say, “welcome”. It’s another Saturday morning at the garden and I can see there are a few people already busy working on projects. Some are measuring areas with string, others are tossing the compost heap while others are whacking weeds. I am focused to drop my stuff off and check to see what needs to be done when I notice our harvest table is empty, which is a sure sign that vegetables need to be picked. Putting on my hat to shade the sun and work gloves to protect my hands, I proceed to look for whatever is ripe and needing to be tossed into my basket. I start with the tomatoes since they’re in such abundance these days. This is my third season as a volunteer at the VCG, so I’m a little more acclimated as to the tasks at hand. We are a mixed group. Some have been with the garden since the beginning and guided me when I was new and others have only joined recently, but everyone knows if they aren’t sure, all they need to do is ask. Today there are about a dozen volunteers.
As we move into the fall season, we are watering less and socializing more… These past few weeks have brought our little valley enough rainfall that watering isn’t our biggest concern anymore. We are rapidly coming upon harvest season which means we need to make sure everything that is ready, will be picked and are busy planting the last of the late fall crops. One Saturday we were shown how to prepare refrigerator pickles, practically right out of the garden. Last week one of our members opened their home to whoever was interested so they could teach them how to can salsa. Today, after a morning of hard work one of our members brought a large pot of homemade vegetable stew and a couple loaves of Indian Bread as we gathered together under the shade of the trees—replenishing our energy and our souls.
Being a part of this community has taught me never to assume, each day I come brings a new appreciation. Today I am rewarded with the sense of belonging, its a wonderful thing.
Suzanne’s recipe for Refrigerator Pickles (organic ingredients)
1/2 lb. cucumbers (about 2 pickling cukes, but depends on size)
1 half-pint canning jar with lid
1 clove garlic
1 small handful fresh dill
1-2 T. mustard seed
1 t. whole peppercorns
1/2 T. sugar
1-2 t. pickling or kosher salt
1/3 c. vinegar (white or cider)
1 small chile pepper or 1/2 t. flakes
1/2 c. water
pickling spice, bay leaves or other seasonings (optional)
onion slices (optional)
What to do:
1. Wash mason jar and lid, rinse, and air dry.
2. Slice the cukes in spears, chunks, or slices. Cut garlic clove in half. Pack all in jar.
3. To make brine, combine in bowl: mustard seed, peppercorns, sugar, salt, and vinegar. Stir to dissolve, then add water.
4. Pour brine over cucumbers, fasten lid and tap jar to release air bubbles. Top off with extra water to cover cukes and fasten lid. Shake to combine.
5. Cover jar tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours before eating. Keep in fridge.