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Local gardener makes goodies you cant buy in the store

Tomatoes, string beans, jellies, jams and preserves. These are the products of Joyce Christian&8217;s green thumb. Christian, who now lives in Eutaw, has been growing her own fruits and vegetables for more than 20 years.

Each year after planting season is over, she carefully prepares and cans all the items she has grown over the year.

In the spring, Christian said she plants cabbage, collard greens, onions, brussel sprouts, English peas and then potatoes. After these crops have grown and then harvested, Christian said she makes way for summer vegetables like tomatoes.

When it comes to preparing her beds, Christian said she uses a mix of organic material including, &8220;sawdust, cow manure and just about anything else you can think of.&8221; Now she has condensed her garden into one bed, but in the past she has maintained several gardens all at once.

For those who don&8217;t have the space or ability to grow more than one garden at a time, Christian said there are still ways to get a good-sized garden.

After she sells a few bushels of the things she harvests from her beds, Christian begins the process of canning and putting items away. Most of these jars end up going to her friends and family, like her mother, whom she says &8220;could eat turnip greens three times a day.&8221;

The home she shares with her husband, Tony, has been in Eutaw for the better part of a century. One of the parts about the house Christian likes is the full-sized pantry that the previous owners used to keep full of canned items.

She said the previous owner had five different freezers that she would fill with garden items in addition to the pantry. Christian said she is proud to fill up two freezers and most of the pantry with what she produces.

Just recently, Christian has become involved in a master gardener class through the county extension cooperative.

One of the perks of being involved with county extension cooperative is getting a soil test done on her land, which will tell her the pH level of her soil. Based on this measurement, which she said she should have in the next few weeks, she can know whether or not to add lime or other things to get the soil balance just right for her garden.

When is comes to cooking her garden&8217;s goods, Christian said she likes to keep it simple and keep it Southern.

When asked if there was anything she couldn&8217;t make with her homegrown veggies, Christian said she has tried to make kraut, but never quite mastered the technique.

But in all of her canned items, Christian said she is after the appeal of homegrown product, and making something that you can&8217;t just go to the store and buy.

Million Dollar Relish

6 pounds cucumbers (about 18 large cucumbers) with seeds removed but peels intact

2 red bell peppers

3 green bell peppers

2 pounds onions (can use sweet variety)

Process these items in a food processor and let stand overnight in brine.

Brine:

1/2 gallon hot water

1/2 cup salt

The next morning, drain well and add:

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 quart vinegar

6 cups granulated sugar

Boil ingredients together and thicken with 3 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch. Put mixture into sterilized jars. Makes 10 pints.

21-day Pickles

16 pounds cucumbers

1 pint unionized salt

1 gallon water, or more to cover cucumbers

Put ingredients into 5-gallon bucket or churn. Weight cucumbers down with plate and a heavy object so cucumbers remain below waterline. Let sit for two weeks. Take cucumbers out of brine and slice into 1/8-inch thickness, or your preference of thickness. Soak in clear water for 24 hours. Optional step: At this point, add 1 teaspoon ginger per gallon to make them hot in taste. After 24 hours, drain well. Add one small box or jar of alum to one gallon of cold water and pour over pickles. Let sit overnight. Rinse pickles one time and pour a gallon of vinegar over pickles. Let sit overnight. Drain off liquid but do not rinse. Alternate layers of sugar (you will need approximately 10 pounds), and one small box of pickling spice. Put lid on jar and you can let them stand for three weeks, but they will be ready to eat the next day.

Kelli Wright is the staff writer for The Demopolis Times. She can be reached at kelli.wright@demopolistimes.com.