We are well into harvest season, and it is at this time that many of us are up to our ears in produce as tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash abound. Late summer is typically a time for vegetable gardeners to step into overdrive, rapidly harvesting their crops and putting up their bounty for the colder days to come. There is a certain amount of stress involved in this process, as many perishable crops will not wait for our lives to get less hectic; they offer a small window of time in which they need to be eaten or processed for storage. We are no longer on our own time; we are on harvest time.
As gardeners, if we are lucky enough to have a good harvest season, we love to share our crops with others. I think there are many reasons why this inclination to share is ingrained in gardeners. It is partly due to our willingness to distribute our love of gardening and our pride in growing something worth sharing. But, most of all, it may be because we don’t have refrigerators, freezers, or stomachs big enough to hold all that we grow! The saying “Lock your doors, it’s zucchini season!” is pretty accurate. We get overwhelmed by the amount of produce our gardens are producing and wind up desperately seeking anyone interested in taking a single, a handful, a bucketful, or a carload full of whatever we have grown so that it doesn’t go to waste. As stressful as this time can be, this phenomenon also creates terrific opportunities for us not only to share our bounty but to make connections.
Recently, a friend of mine brought me a bag full of cucumbers from her garden. She was getting a bumper crop of the cucurbits and had run out of room in her refrigerator. Despite trying many different recipes to use up her crop, she was still overwhelmed and began giving away cucumbers to anyone that showed interest. How wonderful to receive her gift, as my cucumbers, which I had succession sowed later in the season, hadn’t quite come in yet. It also allowed me to try some varieties I had never grown before, giving me a chance to decide if I would like to in the future. In exchange for her cucurbit gift, I offered her a bouquet of zinnias from my garden. During the visit, we chatted and toured the gardens, swapping gardening stories as we strolled, and in the end, we both walked away happy, each receiving something that was both appreciated and enjoyed. After she left, I realized that sharing our bounty, whether on a small or larger scale, opens up opportunities for rewarding experiences.
I consider myself the garden fairy of my neighborhood, leaving bags of produce on people’s doorstep (with permission, of course). Beans, tomatoes, blueberries, and bouquets are just some of the gifts that I have shared. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I made that first delivery years ago. I imagined my neighbors getting tired of me trying to pawn off my extra produce, peering out their windows with apprehension for my visit, and removing their welcome mats. However, I had a vastly different experience. So far, I haven’t had anyone lock their door on me; on the contrary, everyone appreciates the gifts. The elderly in the neighborhood seem especially grateful, not only for the vegetables but also for the company when I stop by. They seemed to be delighted more with the connection my visit offered than by the vegetables. That got me thinking, why stop at produce?
Sharing the bounty doesn’t have to only be about the garden. It could extend beyond the scope of our abundant crops and into other aspects of our lives. Even if we aren’t gardeners with produce to share, we can still share our bounty. If we can offer financial assistance, why not donate to others who are less fortunate or to charities that we care about and need our help? Equally important, donating our time by volunteering makes a big difference in the lives of others. There are countless ways in which we can share what we have with others in need. I vowed that even after the harvest season is over, I will continue to share the bounty. After all, we all, gardener or not, have bounty to share.