A bountiful harvest

Mar 24, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

These past 4 weeks, I have spent every spare moment of my time, trying to be inventive with ways to preserve our bumper harvest of fruit and vegetables from our garden here in Stanthorpe. What a year! The warm, humid weather with just enough rain, has given us so much and it is still producing, and will do so until we get the first frost sometime in April, which will end this bountiful cycle.

Our vegetable garden is a substantial size, designed, dug and planted by my wonderful husband who plants enough to feed a third world country. Sharing our abundance, of course is a must, as we absolutely cannot eat, and store, freeze or pickle everything we pick. Even the birds are full, although they did have an early feast on our apples, apricots, nectarine and peaches, they didn’t leave us one, even when we netted, they found a way in and feasted on the ripening fruit.

I have washed and pickled cucumbers and zucchini, roasted and pickled beetroot, boiled down many kilos of tomatoes for passata, blanched and frozen beans and corn, made tomato chutney, tomato jam, raspberry jam and frozen whole tomatoes. Husband David has dug kilos of potatoes, with sweet potatoes yet to be pulled. The 40 odd butternut pumpkins are resting on the back table…their fate still yet to be decided. Google has become my best friend, searching for different ideas for fruit and vegetable recipes and processing procedures.

When my family lived in Paddington (Brisbane) in our small, tumbledown, timber worker’s cottage, on our little 16 perch parcel of land, my dear dad found room to dig a vegetable garden. I imagine this was something that was in his DNA, carried on from his parents through the depression years and WW2, when day to day life was very different to what we know now, and everyone was encouraged to grow what they could as well as keep a chook or two for meat and eggs.

I loved being outside with my dad, following him around while he mowed, raking and weeding and seeing the pride on his face when he picked what he had planted in his small vegetable garden. Dad always, without exception, planted green beans with radishes, tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkin, whose vine wound its way around everything. The chocko vine was on the fence bordering one of our neighbours and for some reason, dad had a grape vine on the other fence. This grape vine had the most sour, thick skinned, green grapes I had or have ever tasted.

When I was considered old enough, I was allowed to spend time holidaying on my uncle’s small crops farm, where I would enjoy the company of my cousins and we would all help the adults with the harvesting and packing of rockmelons, (eating them freshly picked…the flavour of that warm, sweet melon is etched into my memory forever) potatoes, onions, watermelon and carrots. It would probably be considered child exploitation/labour today, but exploited we may have been, we did have so much fun, knee deep in black soil, washing/ swimming around with the carrots in an old galvanised iron tank to get the mud off, making and then packing the rockmelons in timber crates, pushing the onions along the ramp to be dropped into hessian bags and handsewn together.

I do remember Uncle Bert had a very unfortunate accident while sewing together an onion bag, something distracted him or for some reason and the needle just wouldn’t / didn’t go through at the correct angle and it went into his eye…and yes it blinded him in that eye. Accidents were always part of farming and always will be. Another bad accident was when my Aunty Pat threw kerosene on a fire. It was spring, but a late frost was predicted to come through and the potato plants had just shown their tender shoots through the rich black soil. At the end of each planting row, and at calculated intervals, the idea was to have small fires, lit to create warmth and smoke to hopefully stop the frost from settling on the new shoots and killing them.

The men were out and it was only the women and children at home. As time went by that evening, and a  frost was imminent, time was of the essence, and yes, Aunty Pat made the very bad decision of starting some of the fires with kero. Some of the liquid splashed on her as well, as she lit the fire the fumes ignited and came back onto her nylon dress. I believe a long time was spent in hospital and she endured many a skin graft, but my dear Aunty Pat continued to work on that farm until the day my uncle died. Hardworking heroes they all were.

My husband and I attended a fundraising dinner on Saturday night, and of course, there were the obligatory raffle tickets to purchase as one entered the room as well as a lucky door prize, to be drawn at the end of the night.

Now we very rarely win anything but always live in hope….the lucky door prize was drawn, and what a surprise, husband was the winner of a gift basket full of jams, chutneys, sauces and fruit pastes from one of the wonderful businesses in our area.

We really are very grateful…….I’ll just find room in our pantry, place them, with their professional looking labels in front of my mishmash of second hand jars with blue painters tape across the lids, displaying the contents and date made.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up