Vegetable give away

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(Host) Inspired by a surplus of tomatoes and squash, commentator Henry Homeyer proposes a new holiday.

(Homeyer) Even though I’m past 50, I try hard not to be a curmudgeon. This means I’m not supposed to lecture young people about how things used to be, or even to make comparisons to life in the 1950’s.

However, when I was growing up, we knew all our neighbors, and that isn’t the case anymore. In today’s world, neighbors come and go almost as often as the Canada geese. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know all my neighbors within easy walking distance of my house, but I’ve come up with a plan.

I’m declaring tomorrow, the second Saturday in September, Share the Garden Day.

I’m a gardening guy, so we generally have more vegetables than we need. And although I share tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and cukes with friends and family, I’ve decided to share some with those neighbors I don’t know. This seems like a good way to meet them.

I’ll put together a nice selection of fresh veggies on paper plates, and go door to door, giving them away. Maybe I’ll load up a wheelbarrow with zucchinis, pumpkins and winter squash, and push it through the village of Cornish Flat, making new friends and visiting old ones.

Even after I share the harvest, I’ll still have more vegetables than I need. So I’ll bring some to organizations that serve the needy such as the Haven and the Good Neighbor Health Clinic in White River. They’re always glad to get some fresh veggies to share, as are the soup kitchens around the state.

Nonetheless, I like to store vegetables for the winter, and will put away plenty. Nothing satisfies like a winter meal made with my own vegetables.

I’ve found that potatoes store best in a dark, cold, high humidity environment. A plastic bucket with a layer of slightly moist sand in the bottom will keep potatoes for months if the temperature doesn’t get above about 55 or below freezing. I try to keep mine at 40 degrees. This means the potatoes will taste sweeter than when first picked, as I’ve been told that below 50 degrees some of the starches turn to sugar.

And although I love home made tomato sauce, often I don’t have enough time to make it. Instead, I freeze tomatoes whole, turning them into red rocks, and store them in ziploc bags. I also dehydrate cherry tomatoes by cutting them in half and drying them in a food dehydrator. We store them in ziploc bags and add them to soups, stews, and even winter salads.

I grew up hearing about starving children in other parts of the world. It pains me to throw away food. I like the idea of a day each year to share the vegetables, but I realize than ANY day is a good day to meet some new neighbors, and to share the harvest.

This is the Gardening Guy, Henry Homeyer, in Cornish Flat, N.H.

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist.

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