Rain, rain, go away! This has been my daily mantra for the past few weeks. Never has our farm been so flooded for so long. The drive between fields that usually allows safe passage, even for my car, is now covered with about four inches of water that is home to thousands of mosquito larvae. “Wigglers” could be killed with a dose of insecticide, but such an application would derail our organic purpose, so Richard and I scratch nasty bites and pray for dry weather every day. It’s hard to believe how dry, in comparison, this season was last year; we actually had seven weeks without rain and had to water some plants, just to help them survive. As in all things, Nature needs a balance of important components to thrive and produce and achieving that recipe of just the right amount of sunlight, rain, warm and cool temperatures is not always possible.
Of course, the incessant rain and frequent storms mean that Heart & Sole Gardens has suffered crop loss. Thankfully, not to the extent of other, industrial farms, but enough that I hope the remaining plants will produce enough fruit and vegetables that will allow me to preserve food for the winter. By the time tomato season ended last year, I had canned over ninety quarts of tomatoes and we have less than ten of those remaining. Of the twenty-eight quarts of tomato sauces I canned, only a couple are unopened. Canned tomato juice and pickled tomatoes are also depleted and, while I am thankful for all the preserved harvest we enjoyed throughout the winter and spring, I hope to replenish my shelves with this season’s tomatoes.
Granny’s Beans, my maternal grandmother’s (Lora Bolick Minton) heirloom White Mountain Half-Runners, are beginning to produce well, even though I only planted a short row. Another planting has germinated and is beginning to grow, so I hope to have lots of later beans for canning. Yesterday, I canned Dilly Beans, a pickled treat my family loves. The recipe is from my husband’s maternal grandmother, Vestal Coffey Anderson, and her handwritten copy, a wedding gift to me, is a treasured gift. I love the recipe and, except for the salt, water, and vinegar, all ingredients packed into pint jars were grown by us. A special bonus is the dill and beans, both grown from seeds saved by Granny. This year marks the first time this particular dill seed has been grown since circa 1985! I plan to gather all the seed I can save from these special plants.
Although many plants are still struggling with mud and too much water, I am pleased to note Granny’s white cucumbers are now beginning to produce. I picked three small ones and we enjoyed them with Sunday evening’s meal. Thinly sliced, each person was able to sample some of these treats and I hope there will be many more, both for pickles and for seed saving.
Gran Anderson’s Dilly Beans
4 pints fresh young beans, ends trimmed and strings removed
2 cups white vinegar
1 ¾ cups water
4 tablespoons kosher or sea salt (not iodized)
3 tablespoons sugar (optional, I omit this)
4 cloves garlic
8 sprigs fresh dill
1 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
Prepare a hot water bath for canning by placing a heavy-bottomed stock pot, filled with enough water to completely cover the pint jars, on a hot stovetop.
Place new jar lids and rings in a small pot of hot water, place on low heat on stovetop.
Gather tools for removing hot lids from water and for placing and removing jars from water bath.
In a large saucepan, heat vinegar, water and salt (sugar, if used) mixture and stir until seasonings are dissolved. Allow to cool on stovetop while preparing beans.
Blanch beans by cooking in boiling water for about 10 minutes, immediately drain and place beans in ice water.
In each of 4 pint jars, pack the following:
1 garlic clove
2 sprigs fresh dill
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes
Beans, placed vertically, until jar is packed as tightly as possible. Be sure beans are about an inch shorter than the top of the jar.
Pour brine over beans, leaving about ½ inch headspace.
Carefully wipe jar rims with a clean cloth and place lids on top. Screw rings tightly to secure.
Place jars in water bath and process for 10 minutes.