Change the World Wednesday, Preserving food

It’s again Wednesday, and time for another challenge from Small Footprints at Reduce Footprints.  This weeks challenge is a little difficult for me but I will explain in a bit why.  For now, here’s this week’s challenge:

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This week preserve local produce.  This could be large scale (eg canning fruits and vegetables)…or simply freezing some herbs.  You might want to dehydrate fruits for healthy snacks, make a small batch of freezer jam or shell some peas for the freezer.  Canning, freezing, dehydrating, curing, pickling, etc…the choice is yours.  The goal is to preserve local produce, perhaps from your own garden, for use in the winter.

OR

If you are experiencing winter instead of summer and don’t have fresh produce to preserve, please prepare at least one meal this week using local foods.  This might include items preserved from last summer’s harvest, canned goods sold by local farmers, etc.

We are currently, as I’ve whined about recently, experiencing colder temperatures now.  Everything in the garden seems to be at a standstill.   We still have a few carrots, onions and lettuce we can pick from but it’s not enough to put up.  The farmer’s market’s fares show me it’s not just our gardens here at the apartment complex, it’s everywhere locally.

 

The whole objective of this week’s challenge is to continue with all the ways we have reduced our carbon footprint.  By buying locally we get fresher food yes, but we are saving the countless miles our food would be in transit by boat or truck getting to us.

 

I had hoped to find food from the larger surrounding areas, it isn’t as local as I like to buy and usually isn’t free of pesticides.   I visited the local grocery store that carries local farmer’s produce when in season.  We usually can find several areas filled with local produce this time of year here, but not today.  I was only able to find a total of 7 foods locally grown.  SEVEN!! This is sad.

 

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What I like about the grocery store this time of year is that each local food sold will have the name of the farm and the location of the farm listed on the signs below the food.  You can see there was very little available.  A very few green bell peppers, several heads of cabbage, then onions, tomatoes and corn. There were a handful of squash and zucchini on the shelf above.

 

This is very little compared to what they usually carry.  Sections this size would normally be filled with each of these vegetables and an even wider variety would be available.

Since produce wasn’t available locally, there were a few other things I needed to replenish to hold me over during the winter months.  I stocked up on quinoa, beans/legumes, oatmeal, and barley.  These I will use to make plenty of soups through the long cold months ahead.

I recently planted another bed of carrots to be able to put up for winter, and have started my lettuce in the windowsill that will give me fresh salads to go with my soups.  I have various greens like spinach and a few more varieties of greens.  I will be trying to grow radishes in the window as well.  The window gets  pretty cold during the winter so the spinach should do better than it did this summer there.

 

Just starting to sprout.

Just starting to sprout.

 

I will be installing shelving in the window that will allow me to expand the  number of planters I can place in the window.

I know I didn’t meet the challenge this week, as the produce just isn’t ready this week.   And while the challenge was to put up local foods, I did fill my pantry with wholesome foods, yes they were trucked in, but I firmly believe the dried beans/legumes are healthier for me than canned, and use fewer resources to deliver to the store.

 

I will be very busy putting up food in a couple of weeks.  I still may not have a stove, but with my slow cooker and the offer to borrow a couple from neighbors my kitchen will be filled with wonderful smells very soon.

 

How are you coming putting up food for this winter, did your food from last summer feed you all winter?

35 Comments

  1. We’ve been canning tomatoes and peaches and drying herbs … and soon I’ll be dehydrating apples. We’re also experimenting, this year, with making sauerkraut and pickles (stay tuned). I’ve run several challenges where we attempt to eat (or preserve) local foods and every time I’m pretty amazed at how we, as vegans, can’t eat completely local … at any time of year (well, I should say we can’t eat a well-balanced and healthy diet which is also local). So much is produced in centralized locations in this country. We’re like you, stocking up on lentils, legumes, etc., but they aren’t grown anywhere near our town. I’m hoping that the more we support local producers, the more will become available. :-)

    • It is sad that we can’t eat completely local as vegans/vegetarians. My legumes weren’t grown here either which is sad. I’ve been doing some research this week to see if I could grow some of my own. It looks like they will grow fine here, so they are on my wish list for next years garden. I have the same hope as you, the more I buy from the local farmers and show my appreciation that they will be moved to increase the variety and amount of what they grow. When things are a little pricier at the market I figure it all balances out with the food I grow myself.

  2. Not much ready yet here! I put up extra local strawberries this year because last year I loved having frozen sliced berries from January to March. I also bought a 5 lb box of local fresh blueberries to freeze (just about the right amount for the winter.) My tomato source last year didn’t grow them this year, so I will be out scrounging for some in September! Meanwhile I am settling for any Canadian produce such as peaches and corn.

    • That seems to be the norm around the US and Canada for things to be far behind schedule. This is August, things better hurry up or all will be lost. 5 pounds of blueberries, or any berries would be gone long before next years crops were ready. Fruit is the one thing I could easily live on. Good luck finding corn or peaches, peaches are now over here so I won’t have any during winter.

  3. So far we’ve mostly just been enjoying the garden as everything ripens. Ive put just a few bags of veg in the freezer and Ive given myself a bit of a break about feelng guilt about it. :) This weekend though I will get started on some of the millions of tomatoes that are suddenly ripening. Ive brought bins full of produce in to work to share already and will have lots more to share yet.

  4. I like the way the your grocery store puts up the name of the farm where the local food is grown. We just have stickers that tell us it is shipped from Mexico or some other state. We have a huge indoor farmer market in downtown Davenport, Iowa. They call it the “Freight House” and it now is a hub for all the farmers in our part of the state to sell their food. They have one up in Detroit that our area is modeling. We are at the end of our summer, so I have a lot to put up. You have inspired me to do so this week! :-)

    • Robbie, I am so jealous that you have plenty of produce to put up! :-) I like the signs with the farm name and location listed at the grocery store. Since I grew up around here and went with my grandparents every Sunday during the summer months to shop the farm stands along side the road I am familiar with which farms use pesticides and which don’t, so I can pick from the selections. This year there isn’t much selection. We usually have at least 4 farms selling corn, for example, so far there was only one represented in the store, and I know they use GM seed.

      I have been watching Detroit, what a sad story but they have such an opportunity to turn things around and create a livable city. I’ve been to Davenport, Iowa, lovely place. I was very surprised the fist time I drove through Iowa at the diversity in topography you have there.

      • How neat you have been to Davenport , iowa. I am a stones throw away from Davenport– across the bridge. They now have a wonderful year round Farmer Market in downtown Davenport. It is one of the few year round in the Midwest. It is called “Davenport Freight House”. I did have a problem with vine borer taking out all my autumn squash this year. I will have to visit the Freight House to get some winter squash. I have a lot of summer squash this year, but now winter. My space is limited, so I grow a lot vertically. I hope to grow more each year once I find those that do best in my area.

        • I wish we had a year round farmer’s market. It’s hard here as so little can be produced during our winters. We do have a few farmers that hold back apples to sell during the middle of winter. I always look forward to that.

          What kinds of foods can you find at your farmer’s market during the winter months?

          • They use hoop houses on their farms. A lot of arugula, spinach, or greens they can grow in their hoop houses. We go until december/january if it is a mild winter here in zone 5. Once late January can get very cold and killed off most of my blue scotch kale after the snow covers it a bit too much. Early spring (march-april) we can get some spinach + kale( blue scotch will grow the best in very cold) pretty early if it lived through the winter. Also French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) and Mache( corn salad) very early spring. I also have Radicchio I am planting now for early spring salads.

          • I don’t think even a hoop house would help us here. We live in a “snow-belt” area. If you are unfamiliar with the term, here it simply means that as the clouds move over the Great Lakes they aren’t “full” until they are inland enough (where I live) to dump the vast majority of it. Lately our winters are slightly milder but we normally get between 200-300 inches of snow a season. I’m trying to still have greens by growing them in boxes and baskets in my front window. Only time will tell how successful I will be.

          • I grew up near Lake Michigan, so I know you must get a lot of snow! Living near the Mississippi River does not seem to be the same. We seem to miss the big snow fall here in the Western corner of Illinois. I know the Chicago area gets a lot more snow as well as Minnesota( wisconsin)….I lived there as a child….our winters have been very mild here lately. I figure that is why the hoop houses work for farmers locally.
            Sounds like a good idea to grow your greens in a window. I can’t imagine getting 200-300 inches of snow a season! I look forward to your posts about growing inside. I have read several books about microgreens. When I grow my seedlings in the spring, I have often though…maybe I should make a salad of microgreens from them- I believe I might this year:-)…robbie

          • Robbie, I had heard that Minnesota received colder temperatures than we do here, but slightly less snow. Be thankful you skirt the worst of it in Iowa. I am so not looking forward to winter again, it’s the one thing about this area I don’t care for, I just couldn’t find another place that ever felt like home and didn’t get snow.

            I have heard about micro greens and may experiment with them at some point this winter, being stuck inside I will have plenty of time to play. :-)

  5. I share your garden curfuffle… mine is just soooo far behind. I’ve harvested a few zucchini, a couple handfuls of raspberries, and some very small onions because the plants all died. The peas did OK, but they’re long gone. The lettuce and spinach all bolted long before I could harvest any, the tomatoes are just now starting to set on a few green fruit, the eggplant and peppers have barely started blooming. Grumble, grumble. But… it isn’t just me. I was visiting my dad and stepmom yesterday and my stepmom has a HUGE garden. She was saying that she’s hardly harvested anything at all.

    But, there has been a decent selection of local produce in the grocery store lately. Lettuce, corn, spinach, melons, peaches, tomatoes, cabbage, green beans, and more. The Colorado agriculture department has a big program called “Colorado proud” where they encourage the big chains to carry local produce, and there are all sorts of ad campaigns on TV to get people to buy it. But most of it isn’t the sort of thing that I would “put up” – and frankly it just isn’t cost effective to try.

    CatMan is desperately hoping I eventually get a good tomato harvest because we’re out of homemade marinara sauce and he’s not a big fan of the store bought stuff!

    • This describes my garden exactly (except my tomatoes haven’t even flowered). My most successful crop was a giant bed of shallots I planted in October and overwintered. I just braided them the other week. But even my zucchini is doing terrible. Who ever heard of such a thing :0 We went to a local farm last weekend and whilst the produce was wonderful, the variety was much smaller than usual.

      This farm has buckets of tomato “seconds” which they sell reasonably for sauce making. I hope to get a bucket this weekend and make a giant vat! Maybe somewhere local to you offers something similar for your marinara needs :)

      • Jackie, that’s horrible! No, I’ve never heard of a season where zucchini didn’t fare well. I recently heard that the mid-western US states are worried about another dust bowl in the near future. If all our gardens are faring so poorly I fear we will be reliant on that pesticide laden store produce. Yuck.

        I hope you find your bucket of tomatoes this weekend.

    • Cat, I am shocked you have had such troubles this year with your garden. I think you had some pretty hot weather in Denver, was it too hot? That’s strange that you and your step-mother have had such problems yet you can find local produce at the stores.

      I know what you mean about the local produce at the stores not being cost effective. The prices are so highly inflated even at our store. I do much better at the farmers market and some family farms that sell their produce. I really don’t want to be dependent on the grocery store for food all winter so I’m hoping things turn around here soon.

      I’ve got my fingers crossed for your tomatoes, Can’t disappoint CatMan. :-)

  6. You mentioned onions – have you considered pickling them? Lots of good recipes to use home grown or local storebought ones to meet the challenge!

    Dehydrating folks – you can do a lot of drying in the oven on a very low setting. Basil – ~10 minutes at 200 degrees (smaller leaf things at 7-8 minutes). I just made peach leather from puree a couple weeks ago and it took 4 hours at low temps as well, never needed a dehydrator.

    In Portland they have a few lending library for preserving items so folks don’t have to go buy one – can be very useful!

    • EcoGrrl, that’s good advice on the lending library. Years ago I used my oven to dry foods. I was into making dried chipsfruits and fruit leather for my boys, but now without an oven I don’t have that option. :-) I am happy without the stove, as the slow cooker uses far less energy, but drying foods is another matter, which was why I was excited when a friend offered me her dehydrator she didn’t want.

      While I just ordered a freezer, I would like to combine storing foods in the freezer and having some dehydrated for when we have the inevitable power outage during a winter storm. It makes it a lot easier when you have something that doesn’t need to be cooked.

      I have never heard of pickling onions. I will have to look that up and see if it is something I would enjoy. Thank you!

  7. I dehydrate a lot of things, including meats I buy locally, and I can tell you an Excalibur dehydrator can make life not only easier, cheaper, but allows more local items to be saved for later in the year (it is amazing how nice it is to make your own homemade just add water soups and knowing what is in them).

    May I recommend a site, I have nothing to do with it other than I have learned a lot there. That site is http://www.dehydrate2store.com she not only teaches the HOW to do it, but how to use it for later.

    Makes shopping in bulk locally a real alternative even for the small household of 1 or 2 people.

    • Thank you, Michael. I have a lot of good things about the Excalibur but have never tried it. I was given a free dehydrator, it was an off-brand, and round. Nothing dried right in it. It took days to dry on rack and by then the food tasted horrible. How long does it take you to dry the average food and how much can you do at one time? If it was cost effective I would definitely look into purchasing one.

      • Most things are done in around 8 hours plus or minus, depending on how “juicy” they are to start with and the outside humidity. things like Tomatoes take a bit longer. The Excalibur is made in Sacramento California and you can buy parts for almost all of them and you can make anything from Fruit roll ups to Sausage and pretty much everything in between. And I have made fruit roll up and could not even get them off the racks before they were snacked upon, much better than store bought with no additives. You can dry all but a very small number of items. In my 9 tray I can do about 15 pounds at a time of meat or heavy stuff like tomatoes, or figure about a 5 gallon bucket of most anything else at a time roughly. Even items like Lettuce can be dried and used in soups etc.

        And it is very cost effective over the long run, especially if you buy things at the height of season and then use them the rest of the year. And what is good, you can buy blemished produce, or items from the garden, and just cut off the bad part and save the rest eliminating waste.

        Been doing this for years… I just made french fries I dried almost 4 years ago and they were just fine. Takes a bit to learn the tricks (like everything else), then it becomes a very pleasant simple part of life. And for pennies I can have snacks for a week long motorcycle trip, that would cost a fortune and would be of far lower quality at some convenience mart, etc. And I can basically eliminate all the packaging by being able to REUSE them…

        PS. those cheap round dehydrators are pretty useless and very inefficient and you lose more produce than you can keep. They do have the outside ones that work for “most” things but only if you live in a very dry environment or things tend to rot before they dry. There are other decent dehydrators on the market that I have seen… the biggest thing in AIR FLOW… and the air needs to go across the product and out of the machine and not “UP THROUGH/DOWN THROUGH” the other items being dried like the round ones do.

        And I am getting rid of a LOT of things out of my life, my dehydrator and Vacuum packer to Seal Glass jars I will be keeping, good food gives me a lot of satisfaction… as does being able to make a meal with very little work and know what is in it.

        Also, making people gifts of dehydrated soups, stews, dried fruits, etc. really have become popular among my family and friends (I get request list)… and I can give someone a month of meals… even on my poor man’s income, and it is really appreciated, even by folks that “have everything”…

        • Michael, thank you so much for that information. I donated the dehydrator I was given to the thrift shop as I didn’t know what else to do with it. 3 days of electricity trying to dry one pineapple was just too much for me. I would very much like to dehydrate more of my produce for making soups and the grandchildren would love fruit leather, which I had planned to make but couldn’t with what I had. I will definitely look into the Excalibur and, like you, will find I have plenty of requests. Pineapple and cranberries were asked for already.

          I received a vacuum sealer a couple of years ago as a Christmas present, it is what I use to store a good number of my foods in, that and glass jars I collect.

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