Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
– Nursery Rhyme by Mother Goose
Containers to hold and haul the garden’s bounty
have been employed since long before Peter Piper filled his peck
basket. It appears that the ancient crafts of pottery and basketry
rose up in human practice almost simultaneously.
From the first harvest when baskets made lighter work of the
hauling and storing, gardeners have relied on sturdy, lightweight
and portable containers to help them bring home the crops. Since
the 19th century, British wooden trugs have carted flowers and
herbs; soft, collapsible bins have served orchard workers for a
century or more; and lately, heavy-duty plastic is proving to be
very practical for harvesting garden produce.
As with all cool tools, function dictates form. Gardeners
transport everything from herbs and flowers, vegetables and fruit,
to gloves, hats and hand tools — and their choice of containers is
as varied as the jobs they perform.
USE A TRUG FOR HERBS, FLOWERS AND SALAD GREENS
The word trug originates from ‘trog’, the Old English word
meaning boat-shaped. The modern trug basket appeared sometime
around the middle 1800s in the small town of Herstmonceux in East
Sussex, UK. Chestnut is the material of choice for Sussex trugs,
which are still handmade (see www.GardenTalk.com/ trugs.htm for
Trugs are shallow, long and slender to keep delicate flowers in
one or two layers, protecting them from being crushed by their own
weight. The deep handle is crafted to sit comfortably in the crook
of the arm, allowing both hands to snip herbs, flowers and salad
greens. North American trugs are made of lightweight ash slats, or
woven from sturdy reeds, leather, fabric, plastic, wire or steel
PAT ‘S TOP TRUGS
Heirloom Gathering Basket; Hourglass Flower Baskets; and Swing
Handled Garden Basket, all from Basketville (see Sources below). Of
the dozens of baskets offered by this company, these three work
best for gathering tender sprigs and sprays. All are hand-woven of
Maine Garden Hod from Lee Valley. My personal favorite, these
sturdy, trug-like containers are well made of wood and vinyl-coated
steel mesh. Handsome and versatile, they allow air to circulate and
water to clean the produce. The only drawback might be their weight
— pretty hefty if used for anything other than plant material.
USE HARVEST BASKETS AND TUBS FOR FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
The peck that Peter Piper picked equals 8 quarts, or one quarter
of a bushel. My guess is that he filled a peck farm basket, because
these baskets have been in use for 100 years or more.
Collapsible canvas fruit-picker’s baskets are handy for small
amounts of hard fruit such as apples and pears, even plums, and
slip over the arm to leave both hands free for the task. Strength
and durability are the key qualities in containers meant for
hauling and storing produce — wood and plastic are the materials
most often used, although there are some exceptionally strong woven
willow baskets that are workhorses in the orchard or vegetable
garden. Berry baskets, once made of thin wood slats and designed to
hold the perfect amount of berries to fill a 9- or 10-inch pie, are
being replaced by smaller, lightweight, lidded plastic boxes.
Farm bushel baskets from either Peach Ridge
Orchard Supply or Texas Basket Company are made mostly of gumwood,
if available, or cottonwood, hackberry, elm, birch or magnolia
woods. They are bent into the classic bushel or peck shape, then
held together with slats. Some have ear handles, some a wooden or
wire-and-wood swing handle. Bushel baskets serve for transporting
and storing fruit and vegetables.
Apple baskets are similar to bushel baskets but
have a rounder shape and usually have a swing handle. Many basket
companies carry apple baskets, including Basketville, Peach Ridge
Orchard Supply, and Texas Basket Company .
Berry boxes come in pint and quart sizes,
square or rectangular and are usually sold by the case (five or six
hundred). Peach Ridge Orchard Supply makes
handleless wood and fiber berry boxes. Texas Basket
Company has a large selection of square and rectangle
berry boxes, with and without handles.
Plastic flexible tubs are amazingly tough,
lightweight and dent-proof all-purpose containers that perform a
variety of garden tasks from moving compost, toting garden waste
and mixing soil and fertilizer to bringing in the harvest. They are
easy to clean and great for pouring because the handles come
together and form a large spout. Plastic doesn’t breathe so produce
should not be left in these containers for extended periods of
They’re available in three sizes from Lee Valley and
Gardeners Supply Company.
Pat Crocker is a culinary herbalist, photographer, writer and
lecturer. Among her books are Oregano — 2005 Herb of the Year and
The Smoothies Bible available online at www.HerbCompanion.com. Her
latest book, Tastes of the Kasbah, is available from Riversong
Press, 536 Mill Street, Neustadt, ON, N0G 2M0. E-mail Pat at
SOURCES AND RESOURCES
636-G Long Point Road #128
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
Gardeners Supply Company
128 Intervale Road
Burlington, VT 05401
Lee Valley Tools
P.O. Box 6295, Station J
Ottawa, ON, K2A 1T4 Canada
Texas Basket Company Inc.
P.O. Box 1110,
Jacksonville, TX 75766