Down on the Farm, Each Season Brings its Own Smell

In the country farm kitchen, you always know what season it is just by the smell of what's cooking.

| May/June 1976

  • down on the farm
    Farm life has its own circuit of seasons, each marked by its own smell.

  • down on the farm

In our midwestern country kitchen, you can always determine the season of the year without looking at the calendar or checking the outside thermometer. Just glance around . . . and let your eyes and your nose identify the month.

When the kitchen has a green aroma—a smell of wet clay pots and potting soil and spindly tomato plants growing on the windowsill, of pungent marigold seedlings, of tiny but perfect green pepper plants, it's early April. No matter how cold and rainy it may be outside at that time, the room is filled with the warm and humid atmosphere of next summer's garden. Its countertops are covered with boxes of fresh vegetable seeds from Henry Field and Burpee . . . and envelopes of " oldies but goodies" that we've saved ourselves from last year's crop. And tucked into one of the containers (right beside the first-to-be-planted radish seeds), is a folded, much-erased, out-of-scale, out-of-perspective drawing of the coming summer's vegetable patch.

By the middle of May, our early garden is in the ground and the air has warmed so much outside that we opened the kitchen's windows just a crack. The scent of purple lilacs waft into the room where it mixes with the smell of tiny, just-up green onions brought in from the salad bed and the aroma of the season's first asparagus shoots as they're blanched for the freezer. A pan of bright-pink rhubarb simmering on the back of the cookstove adds its tang to the room's atmosphere, and the faintly yeasty perfume that occasionally drifts up from the basement comes from the rhubarb wine that is already working away downstairs.

Just inside the kitchen door is a bucket of grape roots waiting to be planted. And over on the countertop - between the stainless steel milking pail and the egg basket - are a pair of root beer bottles capped with black rubber nipples. . . a sure sign of new kids in the barn. It's mid-May all right. Can June be far behind?

June is strawberry month here in the Midwest and we're soon keeping a running tally of the number of boxes of the fruit that pass through the kitchen. And we revel in the mouthwatering, sweet fragrance of the berries as they're washed and stemmed and coated with a syrup made of honey. As they're sealed in milk cartons and stored in the freezer. As they're simmered into red, juicy preserves.

And then - suddenly! before we've finished the last of the strawberries we're bringing in peas from the garden. Baskets and sacks and buckets and pans of green-podded peas.

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