|Tomatoes on the Vine|
Image via Pinterest ~ Originally pinned by Dina Belous
We had a very large garden when I was a child and with 8 other brothers and sisters it was a necessity. My dad and grandfather planted several l~O~N~G rows each of corn, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and other various vegetables. Gardens were a main stay back then and canning the "fruits of the labor" was my mom and grandmother's job, and a job it was. Dad was at work all day so my grandfather, who was retired, would come out everyday and work in the garden. He would spent hours weeding and tending to the plants making sure everything was watered and fertilized. He was the one who "patrolled" our garden and when I say "patrolled" I mean he never missed a day of working it. I used to worry about him in the heat bending over all those rows of vegetables and would bring him glasses of ice cold water. Of course my brother was supposed to help him if you could find him! HA
When the vegetables started coming in and bushel basketfuls of green beans and tomatoes were ripe and ready for picking guess who had the laborious job of snapping the beans? My older brother, who somehow always managed to turn up missing when it came time to snap beans and me. Why, I even found him hiding once in the ditch near the road covered in recently mowed grass and as usual he was laughing...always laughing because he got away with it! I would sit for hours outside in the evening and snap beans...and more beans...and more beans until I could see the start of blisters. It was all in the name of having those delicious green beans canned so that when winter came, we would enjoy eating them. When you are a child though that didn't seem as important as playing. If I thought my job was hard, it was nothing to what my mom and grandmother went through everyday until there wasn't a tomato, green beans or corn left on the stalk and this is where my heart swells up when I remember back to those days.
I remember like it was just yesterday...being in the kitchen during the hottest summer months with no air conditioning watching them both first scalding the tomatoes and then peeling them. My grandmother would spend many hours cutting out the yellow spidery veins that ran through the tomatoes. I don't remember why she spent so much time doing this but it had something to do with the tomatoes not tasting as good if you didn't. I was too young to handle a paring knife so I sat back and watched. Back then, you had all these jars, lids, and caps that had to be washed and scalded even before you could start the canning process. Then the jars filled with tomatoes would be placed into a rack inside a huge canner filled with water that was brought to boiling and a timer set for the length of time it took to do its job.
|Image via Pinterest ~ Originally pinned by Traci Forbes|
This process took what seemed like weeks but I really think it pretty much took place through the later part of July and into the month of August. I remember the both of them sweating and working so tirelessly and all of this to give us fresh canned tomatoes in the winter. Their hands would look like prunes all shriveled up and I could smell the lingering scent of tomatoes on them. Through their effort we were able to have garden canned green beans, tomatoes and corn that pretty much lasted us throughout the winter. I never stopped to think about how much work it was and how hard they worked at the time but when I think about it now it was surely the labor of the love they had for us measured by all the time it took them to do this year in and year out for as long as I can remember. As long as my grandfather had a garden, well into his late 80's, my grandmother would can tomatoes and I remember her saying she was getting to old to can all of the tomatoes that came in every year but she always did. I think partially because it gave my grandfather something to occupy his time and because she knew, at some point, my grandfather wouldn't be able to plant his garden and that there wouldn't be any more canned tomatoes...