How did your garden turn out this year? Was it what you hoped it would be? Maybe more than you’d planned? Or maybe less than you planned? Either way whatever you harvested is such a blessing! And for those foods you don’t grow, there are always local farmers who have an abundance of items they would be so grateful for you to purchase from them, trade with something you have, or even share with you.
I’ve been given apples from a dear friend, cabbages from another lovely friend, and fermentation jars from another special lady! We’ve been so blessed. As well, we’ve been able to pick strawberries again this year, though we waited until the very last day of the season to be able to go picking! That was close! I’ve picked strawberries at U-pick strawberry farms since I was young and I couldn’t imagine going through winter without any frozen strawberries, so thanks to my dear daughters for coming with me to pick strawberries, we were able to collect 15 ice cream buckets worth of strawberries for the winter. Yay for my girls!!!
3 quick points to help with your fall harvesting, filling your pantry, and your freezer
- 1. Harvest what you have grown, no matter how much or how little it is; every little bit comes in handy! Freezing, canning, pickling, fermenting, dehydrating, and storing food are all great options and I suggest choosing whichever way allows you to get the job done efficiently. Keep it simple and easy and don’t try to do everything. Some gardens still have an abundance of Swiss chard, beet greens and lettuce. The greens are still terrific options for putting in the freezer and tossing in soups or stir fry’s in the winter months. The lettuce is wonderful this time of year, rather sweet actually, and a simple salad of torn lettuce, cherry tomatoes, carrot shavings, nuts or seeds, cheese chunks and a boiled egg tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and any herbs that you might have left in the garden makes a lovely addition to supper or a light lunch. Herbs transplant fairly well into pots and sit nicely in the house for fresh winter herbs. I find the herbs really inspire and freshen up the look of the house in winter months. Beets make another tasty and nutritional salad with grated cooked beets, grated cooked carrots, diced apples, saurkraut and a bit of olive oil. Finally, dehydrators are often on sale still at this time of year, or they can be available at Second hand stores and are a real terrific tool at this time of year for putting fruits and vegetables on your pantry shelf. I’d have a few of them going however our harvesting system generally includes options that use minimal electricity if possible. We focus on fermentation of foods, cold room storage, canning, and some freezer foods.
- 2. Go to your Farmer’s Market and, if you haven’t already, purchase fruit and vegetables and meat even in small amounts. It is a great way to get to know your farmers. This develops your network if you don’t have one.
- 3. Ask around within your community and at the Farmer’s Market for Bulk purchases of vegetables, fruit, and meat. Many things can be purchased in bulk such as potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, apples, and whole/half/quarters of beef and lamb. Don’t be afraid to ask what else they sell and about their network of farmers for grains, honey, and anything else you can think of. You might be surprised at what you can buy! Storing bulk food can be daunting, I know. Buying extra food to last for months can be intimidating: what if it all goes bad? Where and how to store it? There are lots of exceptional resources and books that describe cold storage as well as how best to store grains, sugar, dried beans, etc. Maybe I’ll have time later to share a post but for today I’d like to suggest Keep it simple: an extra fridge in the garage, Rubbermaid bins in the garage (if your garage doesn’t freeze), fruit crates, 5 gallon food grade buckets from the Hardware Store, a cool corner in your basement. These are simple options that will get you going with food storage and a place to store your bulk food purchases. I think that keeping it simple and just doing something will allow for creative ideas to flow for next year!
We harvested some of our garden before the frost, and will have to get our root crops picked soon! I usually think of all the vegetables that need picking at 10:00pm, just when I am trying to go to sleep, and my mind is going through all the jobs I didn’t get done that day!!
This year we have an abundance of tomatoes. It was years of small steps and a work in progress to get to have a green house, and a watering system for our gardens. We are very grateful for how this all came together for us.
Not every year is an abundant harvest; we had a year of hail damage that took out a lot of our vegetable crops, one year we had snow in June that destroyed all our squash. This year we had many of our green beans eaten by a variety of small animals….yet every year we have some vegetables that are amazing!
And for those vegetables that aren’t quite enough, we have local farmers!!!!
I‘m so grateful for our network of farmers that are dedicated to producing good food so that we can buy from them and stock our pantry. So, I just want to share this post to encourage you with whatever you have grown and just know that the other items can be found from your local people. I found many of my farmers by going to the Farmer’s Market and asking questions. For example, at one local market I found my farmer who often has an abundance of Cabbage. A different year ,when I was picking strawberries, I noticed that my farmer was harvesting garlic and it occurred to me that he just might have some extra to sell! And he did!
When I meet a farmer, I now ask what else they sell that I might not know about. Often there is more available than what a farmer can bring to the Market or that you can visibly see. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. They are all happy to sell what they have rather than have it sit on a shelf and go to waste.
Once you have a network of farmers, it is amazing and surprising how much you can buy! Every year is different for us, however these are some of the items we have purchased from individual farmers: buckwheat flour, spelt flour and grain, varieties of wheat such as Park wheat, rye grain, honey, strawberries, beeswax candles, garlic, onions, carrots, potatoes, and beets, just to name a few things!
Whatever you grew in your garden, in container pots, on your deck, or on your window sill, I hope you had a lovely summer and that this fall, with the help of your local community of farmers, you are able to stock up to fill your pantry and freezer!