Guest Columnist

EMPTY NEST: Our Garden

Submitted photo

Curt Swarm churns out homemade “Mac” apple sauce using a borrowed food mill.
Submitted photo Curt Swarm churns out homemade “Mac” apple sauce using a borrowed food mill.

We’ve been having tomatoes three times a day, four and five or more, if you count passing by the counter and popping a few cherry tomatoes or Romas into our mouths. (I can fit a small Early Girl into my mouth, no problem.) Ginnie just shakes her head. Delicious!--and so much better for us than chips or some other junk food we might stuff our face with.

We have sliced tomatoes for breakfast with our eggs, just like in England. What a delightful surprise of tastes — the blandness of scrambled eggs, the sharpness of cheddar cheese, and the pucker of sun ripened tomatoes. Lordy! Then sliced tomatoes with whatever for lunch, followed by a tomato choked, garden fresh salad, along with sweet corn, on-or-off the cob, string beans with bacon, and sliced cucumbers and onions for supper. Who needs a main meat dish? I love summer cuisine. “Eclectic” doesn’t quite describe it. “Old fashioned” does.

Did I mention our McIntosh apples? They’re so hard to find in supermarkets anymore, but such a flavorful apple, great for pies or eating raw. The Gala, Pink Lady, or Honey Crisp doesn’t even come close, in my estimation, to the raw cultivar excellence of “The Mac.” We are fortunate to have a McIntosh apple tree by our garden, and each year it is loaded to the ground with scrumptious, tart, red skinned, white fleshed beauties. If we don’t get our fill of raw string beans, cherry red tomatoes, or raw sweet corn, or even a pocket-knife-peeled cuke, while foraging in the garden, the tang of a freshly picked Mac brings a smile.

We’ve made new friends because of the garden. With an over abundance of cukes, we put out a notice on social media, “Free for the pick’n” or “Come and get’m, already picked!” The stampede began. Ruth, Harvey and Denise Snavely not only loved the cukes, but came back to help us peel, core and cook the Macs. What a great, old fashioned time! They have a food mill that attaches to a table top and squeezes the puree out of most anything. We processed 9 quarts of Mac apple sauce and labeled it, “Ginnie’s Sassy Apple Sauce.”

Ginnie worried, stewed and wrung her hands over the okra. We had never grown okra before, so it was all a new experience. The plants grew and grew — to about five feet tall — and showed no signs of producing. Ginnie, her cup half empty, declared a waste of garden space. Then one day, a beautiful bloom appeared, like a hibiscus, which I’m told is a second cousin to okra. Hmm. Flowers and food will change a mood. More blooms! — followed by pixie cap fingers that grew and grew. Utilizing a recipe recommended by one of my readers, we now have appetizers of finger licking, crunchy, okra poppers. I wonder if we can sneak them into a movie?

The garden is a happy place. It’s also something that Ginnie and I enjoy doing together. I often stop by the garden on my way in from getting the mail. There are so many surprises, hidden deep within the foliage — decorative gourds that we thought had died, are now peeking out from rows of tall, dry, harvested corn; giant cukes, like submarines, lay hiding in the tall grass beside the garden; and tiny ears of strawberry popcorn slowly grow to maturity. We can’t decide if we’re going to pop or use the strawberry popcorn as fall decoration. We may do both.

I catch myself humming, “In the Garden.” “I come to the garden alone, while the dew still is on the roses, and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.”

Not only is the garden a happy place, it’s a Spiritual place.

“Ginnie! I think we have enough lettuce for another pick’n!”


Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at