As long summer days start to fade and leaves begin to fall, many people turn toward canning and stocking up on winter food supplies.
Born and raised local gardener and canning aficionado Destiny Sparks is one of those people whose pantry shelves are filling up with colourful homegrown fruits and veggies.
“I’ve always been of the mindset to grow food not lawns,” says Destiny.
Since buying a Westview home four years ago and being busy tackling renovations, this was the first year Destiny was able to devote a lot of her time to her front yard vegetable garden. Among the garden beds she grows: hot and sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, watermelon and pumpkins, along with fruit trees. She has always followed the organic gardening approach and doesn’t use any kind of herbicides or pesticides on her plants.
Destiny planted flowers to attract pollinators and has let her back lawn grow over during the summer to provide dandelions for bees that come to visit. A lot of her produce finds its way to the canning process to ensure her family has healthy food until the growing season starts again next spring.
Destiny learned how to can from her grandfather, Herb, who moved to Powell River from Ontario and owned Jumpin Jodphurs tack shop on Padgett Road. Destiny says he was the chef of the family and canning is now bittersweet because it reminds her of him; he passed away four years ago. She now has his dehydrator and smoker and acquired hundreds of jars from her grandparents, including some of the older vintage jewel jars with the rubber seals.
“It’s been hard to find supplies this year, especially lids because COVID lit a fire for many people to try gardening and growing their own food,” says Destiny.
Seeds were also hard to find in town and many places ran out of things quicker than in previous years.
Destiny’s canning season usually runs from June to September as she continuously cans things seasonally. It starts early with strawberries for jam and freezing some of the berries for smoothies. Then it turns to blueberries, while starting seeds, and heat crops.
Tomatoes and peppers make their way into hot sauce and salsa. She makes relish, lots of pickles and was in the process of making kimchi at the start of September. Keeping some overlap from year to year, most of Destiny’s canning is shared with neighbours, given as gifts during the holiday season and traded with others.
“I like to barter, so I traded some of my cherries to a local coffee shop for some coffee,” says Destiny.
Her neighbour Greg also brings her tomatoes and peppers from his garden and in return she provides him with a case of salsa. Some things last longer than others, so Destiny might can jam every second year, depending on how supplies last.
“We can’t grow everything, but every little bit helps,” she says.
Having her six-year-old son Dominyk, who was four when they started planting, be a part of the growing process ensures he is more willing to try different varieties of things. An important part of her gardening is educating and ensuring her son grows up knowing where the food he eats comes from. She said he can often be found eating things directly out of the garden before they’ve had a chance to pick it.
“I want him to have the ability and knowledge for future use to grow food and be able to cook it,” says Destiny.
More and more families are returning to growing and preserving their own food using the equipment and expertise of previous generations, while passing on this important skill and appreciation for nature to their children.