For most of my life, I have not been an edible gardener. Flowers and shrubs were my interest. But when I became a Napa County Master Gardener, I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about, so I purchased a single tomato plant at our yearly tomato sale.
I found a happy spot for it in the garden and just stood back and watched it grow and grow and grow. I had no clue how much one plant would yield. It was not unusual for me to get a large bowl of tomatoes every other day at peak production.
By the end of the season I was completely overwhelmed with tomatoes. So now I understand the locked-doors story. To my surprise, my husband recently found a use for the surplus yellow tomato slices that I had stored in our freezer. He announced that the “lemon slices” were just the ticket in his iced tea.
A single zucchini plant can yield three to nine pounds of squash. I have seen zucchini in my mother's garden that seemed to double in size overnight. Considering that a single zucchini plant can cover six feet of ground, I wonder why anyone would ever want more than one.
A tomato plant can grow five feet tall and just as wide and produce 10 to 15 pounds of fruit in a season. A study done by Purdue University Cooperative Extension found that 25 strawberry plants could yield 25 to 50 quarts of berries between mid-May and late summer. A standard-sized apple tree can produce 10 to 20 bushels of fruit.
A single family can eat just so much produce. What can be done with the surplus?
For people of my parents' generation, who experienced the Great Depression and World War II, preserving food was de rigueur. They learned how to do so early in their lives and continued to can, freeze, pickle and sometimes dry their excess produce throughout their adult years.
But at least in my circle of acquaintances, folks don't seem to enjoy these activities as much anymore. Over the years, I have frequently seen large canning pots, preserving jars and accouterments for canning in secondhand stores. Not recently though.
We seem to be experiencing a resurgence of interest in food preservation. Two years ago, my niece quit her job to stay home and raise her two boys. She and her husband turned their entire yard into an edible garden. She cans, dehydrates and freezes fruits and vegetables all year long. She and her family reap the rewards on so many levels.
If you are interested in food preservation but don't know where to begin, you can find some resources online. Sacramento County has a Master Food Preserver program. Check the web site (http://cesacramento.ucanr.edu/Master_Food_Preservers_181/) forthe schedule of workshops and classes.
When you are planning your fall garden, make sure to have a strategy in place to preserve your excess. Otherwise you just might be that person in stealth gear leaving overflowing bags of produce in the cars or on the front porches of your neighbors.
Workshop: Napa County Master Gardeners will lead a workshop on “Drought-Tolerant and California Native Plants” on Saturday, August 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at Martha Walker Garden in Skyline Park in Napa. Enjoy a walk around the garden to observe drought-tolerant and native plants, and discover the elements that help them thrive in our Mediterranean climate. Learn how to use them in your own garden to replace some of those water-hungry ornamentals.On-line registration (credit card only) Mail-in registration (cash or check only)
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. Napa County Master Gardeners ( http://ucanr.org/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.