RUMFORD – Tami Andrews gets excited when the first cucumber, the first green bean or the first handful of fresh herbs is ready for picking.

Perhaps that’s why she has followed in the footsteps of her grandparents and parents when it comes to growing a garden and canning a couple hundred jars of homegrown produce each year, along with dozens of jars of jam.

“When my parents bought their first home, they had a garden and still do. My mother and her mother always canned,” said Andrews, a lab technician at Rumford Hospital.

She and her companion, Gerry Allaire, a retired sixth-grade teacher, have several gardens. They grow vegetables, perennial flowers, herbs and whatever else takes to the soil along the Androscoggin River on South Rumford Road. He does the tilling, picking and snipping; she does the weeding and preserving.

Their deck is also full of growing things: window boxes full of red and green lettuces, purple Lithuanian beans grown from seeds that have been passed down through generations, flowers and herbs.

Andrews isn’t sure whether she saves money growing most of the couple’s vegetables, except perhaps with the abundance of lettuce that is made into spectacular salads all season long.

Even if she doesn’t save much money growing her own food, she knows that whatever comes from her garden is safe to eat. She knows what goes into each jar.

“We feel better about eating stuff, knowing where it comes from,” she said.

Her pickles, salsas, jams and sometimes, canned vegetables, become gifts for family and friends. So, too, does some of the fresh produce she picks throughout the summer. Neighbors, friends and co-workers all get to share in the harvest, she said.

Her jars upon jars of canned goods line several basement shelves. And each year, along with the usual beans, corn, lettuce and other fare, she tries something different.

Last year it was yellow beets; this year it’s Jerusalem artichokes.

Besides the food and the excitement of picking the first crops each year and carrying on a tradition, Andrews has another reason for committing herself to the hundreds of hours needed to plant, harvest and preserve the produce.

“I get a great sense of satisfaction,” she said.

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