Garden Gifts

By Joanne Callahan

Now that summer is here and the warm weather has inspired our plants and trees to "go forth and prosper", the time has come to start thinking about canning your bounty for the upcoming gift giving season. Nothing says "I Care" better than something homemade in your very own kitchen, from produce grown in your own backyard garden. Whether it be a jar of salsa made from your own hot peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and even corn for the Mexican food lover , a few sprigs of tarragon freshly plucked from your herb garden and placed in a decorative bottle along with some cider vinegar for the weekend chef, or fruits and berries made into jams and jellies for just about anyone, such items make lovely and thoughtful gifts. Not only do you want the right gift to go to the right person, (you don't want to give someone with a sensitive stomach a jar of pickled jalepenos!), but you also want the finished product to look perfect. Here are a few ideas to get you on your way.

Quilted canning jars, sold in cases of 12, are inexpensive and eye catching. If you prefer the "plain" unquilted type, these can be dressed up by cutting squares of homespun fabric and putting them between the screw on cap and the rubber ring, after the jars have been processed. The fabric you choose need not be expensive. You can shop garage and rummage sales for just the right material, or you can recycle old clothing you or your family may have outgrown. If you are giving away flavored oils and vinegars, plain or fancy bottle work equally well, just as long as you can see the contents clearly, since the herbs are the main attraction. You can use empty oil or vinegar bottles from which you have removed the label, and you can even use an empty wine bottle, provided it is clear. Let your imagination run wild when choosing containers. You might be surprised at what you come up with. If you are an expert with ribbon, you can tie a bow around the neck of the bottle or the cap of the jar. Both make pretty presentations and do not obstruct the contents.

Remember, it is never too early to think of giving gifts from your garden. You might want to keep some extra canned items on hand for those special occasions that tend to pop up when least expected: Showers, picnics, housewarmings, or just to thank someone who has done something special for you. Now you can do something special for them. Give them a true gift from the heart...a gift from your very own garden.