Putting Up the Harvest
When you think of preserving food do you have an image of an old Amish woman wearing a bonnet stooped over a stove somewhere in the Midwest? Me neither, but if I did this would be a very limited way of looking at a millenniums old tradition. The reality is you need nether the bonnet or a root cellar to have loads of local fruits and vegetables to eat most, if not, all the winter long.
For my family’s consumption I preserve food in many different ways: drying, pickling, root cellaring, fermenting, moonshining, freezing, etc.… But some ways are certainly MUCH easier then other. And these I will share.
Cold room in house — most people have one of these, maybe a basement, mudroom, etc.… Many of our local fruits and vegetables keep for months just in cardboard boxes at temps around 40-50 degrees. No packing in sand, no controlling the humidity, nothing. Apples, pears, winter squash, cabbage, onions, garlic are the ones I keeping in my basement & unheated sunroom. Get your kids involved too, asking questions like, “why do root vegetables need a certain type of environment to make it through the winter.” This can lead to fun discoveries in biology and the natural process of decomposition.
Pickling on your counter — I have a 1 gallon stone crock that sits on my counter from July- November where I toss fresh vegetables from my garden: green & red cherry tomatoes; sliced carrots and beets; onions; garlic; cucumbers; etc.… along with some vinegar, water, salt and herbs. Let it sit for a few days and enjoy. Plunk out a carrot here and a clove of garlic there. The longer they sit in the solution the softer and more pickled they taste. When you get low on something in the pot, toss more in. This is also a great opportunity to get your kids involved, teaching them about the art and science of fermenting foods.
Freezing — Most people do not have a chest freezer in the basement leaving freezer space a precious commodity. So who is going to fill their freezer up blanched and frozen beans? Not me. If you are going to freeze something it has to be small and taste good. How about herbs? The two herbs I use are basil and cilantro. While drying these herbs makes them almost tasteless, freezing preserves their original taste to a surprising degree. I only have to tightly pack a zip lock bag with these herbs and then . When you need them again just open the bag and crumble off a few pinches. That easy.
These are just a few of the many ways we can “put up the harvest.” Looking for a book to inspire you and your family? One of my favorite books on this subject is Putting Food By.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim is a certified arborist, certified horticulturist, licensed pesticide applicator (needed for the application of organic pesticides in MA) & a professional landscape designer with over 15 years experience. He is also the owner of Hilltown Tree & Garden LLC. Jim is on the faculty at the New England Wildflower Society, teaching courses on a diverse range of topics. He lives and works in Zone 5 (Chesterfield, MA) with his family. Once a month here on Hilltown Families you will find timely gardening tips, from a pro in the field, that can be easily used by both avid and novice gardeners, specific to Western MA.
[Photo credit: (cc) timlewisnm]