Mississippi woman grows her first garden during pandemic


COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Angie Knight would have laughed had anybody informed her in February she’d be canning tomatoes, placing up squash or pickling peppers by July.

Few concepts might have appeared extra outlandish. However that was pre-pandemic. Most “firsts” wrought by COVID-19 have been unwelcome ones.

A few of its classes, nonetheless, have constructive — even revelatory — penalties. One, for instance, is the rise within the variety of first-time house gardeners. Knight is one in all them.


Cabin fever induced by weeks of shelter-at-home and three youngsters distance-learning underneath the identical roof despatched the Columbus mother digging within the grime this previous spring.

Having by no means vegetable-gardened earlier than, she and her husband studied up on the fundamentals and mapped off a manageable trial plot, about 16-by-25-feet, in a nook of the massive yard. They put out a smattering of strawberries, corn, peppers, tomatoes, beans, squash, onion, cantaloupe and watermelon. The youngsters helped.



The entire household, used to purchasing every thing at a grocery, shared within the pleasure of watching flowering strawberry produce fruit, the squash begin to kind, first tomatoes make an look and melons no larger than a ping pong ball in the future double in dimension the subsequent. The harvest is loved on the household table.


However gardening typically results in the subsequent degree — canning, preserving, “placing up” a few of that produce for later. It was commonplace throughout Knight’s great-grandparents’ period, however to many it’s change into a misplaced artwork.

“I don’t need something that we’ve grown to go to waste,” declared Knight.


So, just a few days in the past, she determined to begin with tomatoes. The considered utilizing a water bathtub methodology — jars in boiling water — made her pause. Reminiscences of a previous kitchen mishap involving a sizzling dish, chilly water and shattered glass in all places nonetheless lingered.

“I’ve been form of apprehensive, and I sat there for nearly two weeks making an attempt to inform myself, OK, it is advisable stand up and may in the present day,” she mentioned. “I used to be afraid I’d burst each jar in the home and have tomatoes everywhere in the partitions.”

A few YouTube movies on canning tomatoes with out utilizing a water bathtub made the method appear doable. Knight relied closely on a video by Linda’s Cinema.


She additionally thought-about herself fortunate to have elder buddies skilled in misplaced arts. Two of them, Janice Nelms and Jeanette Basson, have been sounding boards and founts of information.

“As soon as I watched the movies after which consulted and made certain these folks on YouTube have been telling the reality, I believed, OK, I can do that,” mentioned Knight.

And he or she did, peeling and chopping, boiling and stirring — turning out 9 pint jars with about 22 tomatoes in her first strive. Outcomes will fluctuate relying on tomato dimension.

She nonetheless has lots to study, she mentioned, however that preliminary session has confirmed that few sounds are as satisfying because the “pop” when the lid on a jar of canned tomatoes accurately seals.

“These (jars) will probably be passed by winter. We’ll use this for vegetable soup; I like my soup very pink, very tomato-y,” mentioned Knight. “You simply can’t get significantly better than the style of fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, like these have been once they went into the jars.”

Knight’s expertise of rising a primary backyard, canning a primary harvest, just isn’t a lot totally different than in all probability hundreds of different pandemic gardeners realizing they’re able to “extra.” However her inspiration is exclusive to her. Sure, there’s the will to change into extra sustainable, to eat more healthy.

However the greatest driver, she mentioned, was pondering significantly of two units of her great-grandparents. The scope of their connection to the earth has change into clearer prior to now 11 months, since Knight’s mom handed away and she or he has change into all for researching and scanning a whole lot of household images relationship again to the early 1900s, by world wars and the Nice Melancholy.

“Realizing we come from a farming household, discovering the photographs and documentation of farm life and what it was like for them, that’s caught with me,” the great-granddaughter mentioned.

“Considering of their gardens and the arduous, arduous occasions they needed to stay in, little electrical energy, no energy instruments, no air con; it was all by hand. We don’t know how arduous it was.”

Knight believes that willpower, which she mentioned handed down by subsequent generations, is motivating.

When taking a look at new challenges, whether or not gardening or dealing with down a pandemic, she remembers what a pal mentioned to her quickly after her mom’s passing.

“She informed me, you’re extra like your mama than you ever knew, and also you’re going to really feel her spirit in you, and also you’ll end up capable of do stuff you didn’t suppose you have been capable of do earlier than,” she recounted.

She likes to suppose those that got here earlier than her would smile over the “new” outdated expertise she’s tackling. She taught herself the fundamentals of stitching just a few months in the past as properly.

“Studying to stitch by doing, studying to backyard, rising my very own meals, canning and preserving my very own meals — I can’t assist it, however these individuals are in my head each day,” Knight mentioned.

After sealing up these jars of tomatoes, with nary a one burst, she took a deep breath.

“I simply appeared to the heavens above and one of many first those who popped in my head is Nice-Granny Ruby. I simply mentioned, ‘I did it. I did it.’”