Note: this article is by gardenstead’s senior writer, Liesje Doldersum, who is an always-learning vegetable gardener and ardent friend of the earth.
Growing fruits and vegetables is a wonderful thing, no doubt about it. From starting seeds, to transplanting tender seedlings outdoors, to watering, feeding, pruning, admiring and pest-controlling — taking care of our vegetable plants and fruit trees is deeply rewarding.
But let’s be honest. Isn’t the best part about growing stuff reaching its peak right about now? When all of our months of effort and care yield the actual tangible results we’ve been hoping for?
That’s right, we’re talking about harvest time.
For so many of us — at least in much of the Northern Hemisphere — it’s getting to be the high point of that oh-so wonderful time of the growing season, when we gather the fruits of our labours, marvel at the abundance of nature and wonder (for example) what we’re going to do with all that zucchini we’ve managed to grow so darned well.
The reward for hard work
Harvest time is when all the hard work of nurturing a garden reaches quite literal fruition. When each day in the garden equals a quantity of perfectly nourishing food whose origins you know and trust — and which you can share with your neighbour, if you have abundance (after all, let’s face it, most of grow way too many tomatoes and squash).
In my garden, our pole beans have been giving us a dinner-for-four’s worth of beans every couple of days or so. Our tomatoes are still producing prodigiously, and even this year’s carrots are worth celebrating (a huge leap from last year, let me tell you), although they’re not quite ready for full harvesting yet. I’m hoping for another week or so of sun to get a little more size out of them. Fingers earnestly crossed.
The rhythm of the seasons
When I harvested our potatoes this week, I was thinking about the rhythm of the seasons. I’m so grateful for this time of year, when temperatures cool in Southern Ontario, where I live. It’s the prelude for the resting time of winter, when, whether we like it or not, days become shorter and we are more inspired to retreat indoors (to plan next year’s garden, of course).
And of course, harvest time is a season of enshrined celebration. In Canada, we mark Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, to honour and give thanks for the harvest, and in the US, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
Indeed, just about every culture in the world has a harvest celebration, and that little dance you do when you unearth a whole basket’s worth of potatoes (or, you know, similar) — well, that’s a bona fide celebration, too.
The honourable harvest
One last thought to finish with, from Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. This is her interpretation of the honourable harvest, “the Indigenous canon of principles and practices that govern the exchange of life for life”:
Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you make take care of them
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking you for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only what is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others.
Harvest in a way that minimises harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.
May your harvest be plentiful this year. Here’s to the season of abundance.