Our nights are getting colder, dipping down into the low 40s at night. I know this mild weather is coming to a close, and so I’ve just got to harvest everything I can before we lose anything to frost. I’m picking away at it as best I can, and while I know we will lose some things, I’m not too worried about it. I’m really happy with what we’ve done this year, and it’ll just get better.
I picked most of the beautiful Asian eggplant we grew. I put a whole bunch of it in the giveaway basket, too, and I’m pleased to say that all but one have been taken from it! Anyway, I’m definitely growing this next year, it was easy and prolific and delicious. To store the last of this, I’m experimenting with an eggplant veggie burger that we’ll freeze. Eggplant is not the easiest thing to store well, so I’m hopeful that over the next few years we’ll develop recipes and methods for storing it that are really fun. I’ll post the recipe if it’s a success.
I’m also still attempting to store all this summer squash, but after this soup I decided I’m done. So. Much. Squash. Anyway, I decided to make a nice chunky veggie soup- with our peppers and tomatoes and homemade stock… yummy.
It’s also really nice to know that I’ve got these great fast meals for days when I just can’t cook. To me, it’s so worth it to harness your gumption on one day to benefit you on those days when you have none. This is my fast food.
It’s been a really weird tomato year. We have these friends who live on a couple of acres, and they always offer their leftover tomato harvest to us- it’s been the bulk of our canned tomatoes for the past two years. And yet, this year they lost them all to the blight. Ours were blighted too, but because of the method we used (trellising them up, square foot gardening style), it kept them up off of the soil and many of our tomatoes ripened and made it. I feel like we really lucked out, considering. I’ll take a final tally of what we got soon, but we definitely got enough to ration and use throughout the year- although we were sure to pressure can everything we got from the plants rather than just hot water bath can it. I read that the blight, although harmless to humans, can sometimes affect the acid content of the tomatoes and give way to other harmful bacteria. So, rather than just not store any of them, we decided to boil the blight-free (at least that we could see) tomatoes for a little while, add lemon juice, and then pressure can them. We did this method for salsa, too. Basically just treating it like any other low-acid food. I was surprised not to find this solution anywhere when I was reading about why not to can good looking tomatoes from a blighted plant. It seemed common sense to me, but I don’t know.
Anyway, below are some of our beautiful cherry tomatoes. I was not about to blanch and pull the skin off of to can them. Instead, I opted to dry them. They aren’t exactly sun dried, but the flavor of dehydrated tomatoes is really great. I’m glad I’ll have a good jar of these to throw into sauces through the winter.
Chilis! I love spice… in moderation. I love the flavor of peppers, and I love the heat, but not if it takes over a dish. Anyway, I love throwing crushed peppers into things, and so I’m drying out all of these chilis we grew and I can just crush them up as needed. I’m also planning on taking all our green chilis (we’ve got some good serranos out there still) and making a fermented chili paste… I’ve still got to find a recipe, though.
Last night’s meal- twice baked potatoes stuffed with sausage, peppers, onion, roasted garlic, tomatoes, and cheese. Yummy. Served with local sour cream and tomato skin relish. Really good. Vera ate a whole half of a potato’s worth, which means it was a success. Thanks to my dad who gave me the dinner idea earlier that day on the phone! I’ve been loving our meals lately, because we pretty much grew all of the vegetables we use. With the exception of meat, dairy, grains (which we haven’t been using a lot of lately, we’ll probably increase our use through the winter), and some spices, we’ve been able to feed ourselves straight from the backyard. And everything else is mostly local (except some spices, of course).
Also, I’d like to just make a little note about homegrown potatoes… YUM. I really didn’t expect them to be that much better than store-bought, but I kid you not, EVERYTHING that I’ve grown myself tastes better than it does from the store. Also, I did the math, and even though the potatoes didn’t produce all the way up the box, I figured out that we did just awesomely in terms of square footage. We had friends who grew about 70 pounds of potatoes in about 100 square feet (two 25 foot rows). However, we used 8 square feet and got 34 pounds. That means we got about 6 times more per square foot than by using the conventional method! If we had used our method with their space, we would have yielded about 425 pounds of potatoes… so really we made out like bandits, even though it didn’t do what we wanted it to. Anyway, we decided that next year we’ll do more boxes with different varieties, but only build them up about half as tall. This will save us some wood and effort, and we’ll still be happy with the results.
So right now work in food storage is busy busy busy. I’m going to try to pull off all of this over the next couple of weeks:
- make and freeze eggplant burgers (I just found that cool recipe! I hope it works)
- make and freeze nasturtium pesto
- Pot up herbs to bring inside (because I’m moving my herb garden anyway)
- dry chilis
- ferment green chilis
- dry more tomatoes
- green tomato salsa (lacto-fermented)
- sauerkraut (so easy, just cabbage and salt and let it sit)
- kimchi (same method as sauerkraut, just add some chilis and other veggies!)
- cabbage and ham soup (canning)
- broccoli leaf soup (more canning)
- applesauce (and some more canning)
- pears (more canning, but we’ve got to call and make sure we’ve got access to a tree- we’ve got a couple of sources)
- dry apples
- buy lots of winter squash from farmer’s market for storage
- lacto-fermented kohlrabi
- lacto-fermented chard stems
- organize root cellar and store everything
So yeah. It’s this time of year that I remember that I am really fulfilling a job here. Although, instead of the constant flood of gratitude and reassurance that one might get from an employer, I’ve got to learn to see the value of my work every time I crack open a new jar of tomatoes in the middle of winter. Sometimes it’s hard to do. Although, reading books like Radical Homemakers has been really validating, and I’m finding all sorts of ways to feel really fulfilled in this work. I honestly think it’s inherently fulfilling, the only thing that makes me question it occasionally is the environment of this culture that I’ve got to wage war with all the time… but I’ll talk about that another day. 🙂
Next week I’ll talk more about lacto-fermenting vegetables and why it’s something everyone should do and have in their diet.