When life gives you lemon cucumbers, it's time to make pickles, pints of yellow summer packed into a jar. I've headed into full-tilt harvest preservation mode, putting up big vats of pasta sauce and bowlfuls of tomato soup for freezing, pickling peppers and digging out the recipes for tomato chutney, tomato confit, pretty much tomato anything in a mad scramble to make the most of it while it lasts.


Every year I seem to escalate. One year that meant a small chest freezer added to the basement to handle the overflow. But when I was in danger of overflowing the overflow space, I decided it was time to finally come to grips with the canner. My mother, whose gardening days were behind her, had passed on to me her canner and mother lode of canning jars, but I have to admit I procrastinated a few years before I used them. I'd helped my mother can tomatoes when I was a teenager, but had never canned without adult supervision, and I remembered it as a lot of work. Plus, I was a little leery of messing it up and creating Something That Could Kill Your Family.

Three years of canning have somewhat increased my confidence that I won't produce something in the lethal category, but I still hold my breath, counting those reassuring plinks and plonks as the jar lids seal. I'm starting to understand my grandmother's zeal for pickling anything, although I won't be heading down the road of pickling strange meat products in those funky triangular jars she used. But zucchini pickles, sure. Carrot pickles, yes. Bean pickles? Not yet, but that's next on the list.

What's cooking in your garden? Are you a canner, a freezer, or do you find nongardening friends with whom to share what you can't eat? And do you manage to eat up everything you preserved before it's time to start all over again?