In the fall, when our garden came to a close and final harvest was upon us, Mother didn't like anything to go to waste. In those days before we had freezers for saving our food, canning, pickling and drying were the methods we used.

So from late summer into fall, we were involved in a great deal of food preservation.

The aromas from the farmhouse kitchen were enticing when we came home from school. These mingled with the spicy scent of applesauce Mother might be making and canning, too.

Making Harvest Soup

In more recent years, a friend told me how she made harvest soup from her fall vegetables and froze it for winter use. The extra tomatoes in her garden formed the base for this soup. Then she combined it many other vegetables whatever was on hand.

Jan chopped the unpeeled tomatoes, then cooked them slowly in a large pot, stirring occasionally to make sure they didn't stick to the bottom and burn. As the tomatoes began to make juice for cooking, she added more vegetables. Pour in some water if the tomato base is too thick.

Almost anything from the garden can be chopped up and added to this pot of harvest soup - green beans, corn from the cob, limas, carrots, onions, cabbage, etc. You will find various combinations you like best.

Beets, though, you might not want to include since they tend to overwhelm other vegetables with their red coloring and stronger flavor.

Preserve the Soup

Cook the vegetables until they're crisp but not mushy since they'll be cooked some more when you make your final winter soups. Cool the pot of soup quickly by setting it into a sink of cold water. Then freeze it in pint or quart containers, whichever is more convenient for your family.

Come winter, you can thaw this soup base, add bouillon to flavor it, salt and pepper, rice, barley, leftover meat, potatoes, etc. to make filling fare for your family.

Also, don't add any seasonings, except herbs, until you're making your final soup. Sometimes they change in flavor when frozen.

Using Beans From the Garden

If you have wax beans, green or pole beans, and lima beans in your garden, try making SUCCOTASH. Sauté 1 large chopped onion in 2 tablespoons butter or bacon fat until just tender. Add 1 cup water, 1 cup each of the three types of beans. (Or use some other three-bean combination from your garden.)

Green and wax beans should be cut up. Add salt and pepper to season; simmer until vegetables are just about tender. Then add 1 1/2 cups corn freshly cut from the cob. Cook this without covering for a few minutes until the water is almost gone.

Add 1/2 cup cream (or milk if you don't want it so rich). Sprinkle in more salt and pepper if needed. Heat, but do not boil. Serve at once.

(c) 2001 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen has been writing cooking columns for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. She's currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles: http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea; e-mail: [email protected])