Putting Food By
It’s been a fabulous summer in the garden this year, thanks to an early spring and record setting warm temperatures this summer. We had 27 days above 90 degrees, an all-time record for the Portland area. All of this hot weather has kept me busy in the garden, weeding, watering, and harvesting, but the fruits of my labor have made it all worthwhile. We’ve had such a bountiful garden this year that I have been putting food away for the winter for months. We have a 5-cubic foot freezer that we bought for storing the occasional purchase of a locally raised 1/2 pig or a 1/4 cow, but we did not make a large meat purchase this year so I have been filling up the freezer with fruits and veggies. Every once in a while someone will say they would like to see what’s in my pantry, so I thought I’d give you a peek into what we’ve put away for the winter.
The first things to ripen at the farm in the spring are of course the berries. We grow strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, and besides turning some into jam I have also frozen several quarts of each for making desserts over the winter. The wild blackberries grow like, well weeds, all around the perimeter of the portion of the property that we try keep fairly well maintained, so I can’t help but pick several quarts of blackberries to freeze when they are staring me in the face every time I am out doing my chores. The rhubarb grew to new heights this year, with several garden visitors asking “is that rhubarb?!” due to its tremendous size. Due to the abundance of blackberries and rhubarb, I experimented with blackberry-rhubarb crisp recipes this summer. I came up with one that I like so much that I decided to freeze several quarts of pre-mixed and measured blackberries and rhubarb so that I can make it throughout the winter. I also made a delicious rhubarb-raspberry jam this year, and a rhubarb five-spice chutney as a special surprise to go along with the new five-spice chicken recipe I discovered that my husband is loving this year.
The greens have been growing like crazy, and thankfully Sean has been helping out with keeping on top of the kale harvest which is especially productive this year. We have blanched and frozen quite a lot of kale and chard so far, and I’m also hoping to get around to canning some kale in the next couple of weeks. The broccoli also did well for the second year in a row, so I guess I’ve finally figured out how to grow it, and I was happy to have enough to put some in the freezer since it is one of my favorite vegetables. The potato harvest was a good one this year. I rotated crops this year and moved the potatoes into a bed that had lots of composted chicken manure, and they did very well. I harvested 30 pounds of Yukon gold and Red Lasoda. I also harvested about 20 pounds of red and yellow onions. The golden plum trees had a bumper crop this year. I picked a five gallon bucket in no time at all, I didn’t even need to use the fruit picking apparatus that Sean made for harvesting the ones high up in the tree. Since I still have some plum butter in the pantry from last year, I gave the plums to Sean for his beverage making endeavors.
This has been the best year for squash and cucumbers in recent memory. I’m growing zucchini, yellow crookneck, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and delicata squash, and lemon cucumbers. I have managed to (barely) keep up with the zucchini by freezing about 12 pounds of diced and shredded zucchini for making curry zucchini soup and other tasty things over the winter. I’ve also frozen a bunch of zucchini fritters which are one of my favorite ways of dealing with excess zucchini. I also froze some crookneck squash for making a delicious scalloped crookneck squash, potato, and chèvre recipe that I discovered this summer. I harvested a small mountain of lemon cucumbers which I turned into about 20 pints of my famous garlic dill pickles. There are at least a dozen spaghetti squash ready to be picked, and since those don’t store as long as the other winter squash, I am planning to cook and freeze several of those. There are a lot of acorn, butternut, and delicata squash getting close to being ready to be picked, and I am seriously considering asking my husband to make me some sort of mini root-cellar so that I can store all of the potatoes, onions, and squash in a place that is the right temperature for storing them to maximize their storage life.
The tomatoes and basil have also had a good crop this year. I’ve roasted many batches of tomatoes, onions, and garlic and frozen them for making pasta sauce over the winter. I also made a few quarts of tomato soup, and with lots more tomatoes on the vine I will continue roasting and canning those for the next few weeks. As the nights are starting to get a bit chilly, I picked most of the basil and have put away 10 1/2-pints of pesto in the freezer.
There are a few other things in the garden not quite ready for harvest yet. The eggplant are coming along, and I’m hoping that we still have enough warm days for them to get a little bigger. There are dozens of anaheim chilis in various sizes on the pepper plants, and I’ll be picking and roasting those over the next few weeks. And of course there are dozens of leeks I need to do something with. I always get a bit carried away planting leeks and end up with way too many to eat. Thankfully they overwinter well, so I will be picking them to enjoy throughout the fall and well into the winter.
The pantry also has a few things that I canned a year or two ago or have been gifted by fellow canners that we are still working our way through – marinara sauce, apple sauce, turkey stock, peaches, plums, zucchini relish, chutneys, Summer Sweets including several kinds of jam, and our own honey (Honey Days). Now that I’ve made a list of all of the garden bounty that I’ve put away for the winter, I realize that my next project needs to be making an inventory of everything that we have in the freezer and on the shelves so that we can be sure to eat our way through it all over the winter!