I always loved the tasty, dill pickles that my grandmother canned. To me, they were simply the best ... I guess because they were hers. So much for that. Now, we'll go out to the patch. When we harvested cucumbers, they couldn't be the big, yellowish over-ripe ones nor could they be the little, scrawny, too-small babies. They had to be medium size, supposedly indicating that they were just right for eating or pickling.
Well, at any rate, Grandmother grew perhaps just a row or two for her and her family's personal use, but the cucumbers that are the subject of this blog were the ones grown in a not-too-small patch to be harvested by someone other than the grower.
This is where me and my brothers and sisters came in. I remember (as a kid) two patches that we picked from. With each field, I remember working in them only one summer ... which, for me, were two summers too long. Anyway, my father had some kind of internal "farmer's radar" that instinctively led him to plots of land where anything was ready to be harvested, and, of course, he dragged us along - as usual.
Cucumbers are vegetables that "breed" fast. It seems like one day you see a small, baby, thumb-size veggie, then the next day, it's a full-grown adult cucumber with pimples and all. That's when they're ready for harvesting.
Three things I didn't like about picking this little, green veggie. One, cucumbers are harvested in the hot summertime. We'd arrive at the patch as early as possible, because it takes a long time to turn the vines and look through the green leaves for ripe, green cucumbers. Even in a small patch, with several people working, the picking had to be done so slowly that it was hot before you realized it. Our goal was to get done as early as possible and retreat to a nice, cool, shady spot.
The second thing is that cucumbers have a slight moist, sticky coating that clings to your fingers. At the end of the day, your hands are pasted brown with the residue from the cucumbers. We literally had to scrape this grime off our hands. Yikes!
And thirdly, cucumbers are grown on low vines that seem to cling to the earth, and we usually had to crawl on the ground or bend over (back-wrenching pain) to gather in the crop. Neither position is favored, but it's one or the other. The work has to be done. But I was glad that we picked those little green sticks only two summers.
As a post script, I always wondered why the farmers who planted those "cukes" didn't pick them themselves or at least have their children harvest them. I guess since we were available, no one else volunteered to help. Well, at least we got paid ... a little, and New Yorkers ate Arkansas dill or sweet pickles during their wintertime feasts.