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Harvest Time: The Goal is Not Quantity, but Rather a Diversity of Flavors, Food

Marideth Sisco's old-fashioned "canner" can be heard in the background, steaming away canning her freshly-picked green beans
Pumpkin
(Photo credit: KSMU)

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. It's autumn in the Ozarks, jacket weather, and people seem to be energized by the cooling temperatures and the brisk winds. Anticipation is growing for the emergence of fall color, which should be splendid this year despite the arid summer just past.

 

About everyplace has gotten at least enough rain to bring back the pastures and fortify the ponds. But none of the water has reached the water table, and the lake levels are still falling, albeit slower. Some are clinging to the wisdom of the on-line weather prognosticators – others root out that almost forgotten copy of the almanac, looking for signs, omens, portents. It has always seemed peculiar to me that folks who otherwise live a high tech, ultra-modern lifestyle will often, when confronted with the uncertainly and unpredictability of the weather, go right back to primitive nostrums and ancient rites to show them the way.

 

That there is no certain way is a given. But still, we seek answers. My dad used to say, when he was heading out to solve some electrical problem for a neighbor, that he was off to “unscrew the inscrutable.” I feel like that most days.

 

I know the farmers have been having to face some tough choices this past season, first selling off excess livestock in response to prolonged dry weather, then beginning to cull breeding stock as the drouth deepened. I don't think they've been all that reassured by the recent rains, knowing we're still more than 10 inches down for the year, and there's still no telling what to expect.

 

Gardeners, too, those who've lasted through the drouth and still have crops coming in, are facing choices, as the nighttime temps dip and bob and threaten and subside: should they leave the sweet potatoes a little longer and chance the freeze, or dig them now when they might not be as big as one would like. Some, like me, are moving travel schedules around so we won't be caught too far away when the forecast goes from chilly to scattered frost and then killing freeze. One fact is universally accepted – October 20 is first frost. It may come sooner, or possibly later. But it's coming. And no one wants to be caught looking.

 

Of course there is also the opposite viewpoint. Just as we wish the season of politics would come to a close, so some of us are looking at the frost date and saying “No more okra to freeze. Woohoo.” or “The squash are finished? Yippee!” Or “I swear if somebody brings me another green bean I'll… well, you get the idea. It's difficult to complain about the abundance of the harvest, especially in a year when we weren't at all sure there would be one. The last 10 pints of green beans from my garden are getting canned today, leaving only winter squash to pick and store, dry beans to harvest, green tomatoes to can and a few more herbs to dry, mostly mint for tea.

 

But wait. What about the sweet potatoes. And the cherry tomatoes. And those huge peppers. And the persimmons, for gosh sake, and the walnuts. Word has it those who find black walnuts will be lucky, and those who find them with filled out nut meats even luckier. So the harvest is far from over, and it's way to early to slack off just yet. For the real bounty of the harvest comes when you not only have enough to eat, but a balance of good, flavorful and diverse foods to make February not only survivable, but a sweet celebration of seasons past, whose memory is not just pleasant, but delicious. This is Marideth Sisco, wishing for all a bountiful harvest in store for the days to come.