Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Food Storage--CSA style

It was great season for our community supported farm. I've been getting a bushel of vegetables a week and a peck to a peck and a half of fruit every single week.

What? You don't know how much a bushel is? Or a peck?

Well, in farm terms, it's really quite simple. Those words mean a lot. Seriously, I've been getting four or five grocery bags of veggies and piles of fruit--like 30 apples a week. (It actually isn't simple. Here's the conversion formula for bushels to pounds.)

A bushel of home grown veggies also means a lot of canning and freezing. I've learned a lot this year and wanted to pass a lot of it on. (That's a lot of "a lot", but now you're getting the idea of how many veggies I have laying around!)

When I was signing up for our share this year I decided I wanted to try and see what it was like to live on locally grown produce year round--people around here call that becoming a locavore. Since I use disposable diapers (although I'm thinking of switching over to Seventh Generation diapers and toilet paper to assuage my guilt) and I actually drive a car instead of riding a bike I figure eating locally is the least I can do for the planet. One study showed that eating locally uses 17 times less oil and gas. Eating locally is actually a big deal and I think it's worth the effort.

BTW, I also aim for a "flexitarian" lifestyle. I aim for one serving or less of meat a day. That's good for the planet, too.

Now, according to my understanding of locavor-ity I can eat things that won't grow in my climate so I do buy tangerines/oranges and bananas at the grocery store. We can't live on only apples! Although, during peak summer harvest when were getting peaches, pears, plums, and melons I bought no produce at the grocery store. I try to always buy US fruit, but, well bananas always break that rule. *guilt* I'm pretty good about buying Colorado Proud milk and other dairy products, but meat and eggs are anybody's guess. I'd love to go organic on those things too but it's too expensive. *sigh* That's one reason I've gone flexitarian.

Back to the canning. Living in an area that has a great growing season but also has a definite winter makes canning and preserving food a necessity for a locavore. (See, it's not just gray-haired, sensible-shoed Mormons that do it! Canning is part of a new, hip cultural movement!) This year I put up peaches, pears, salsas, tomatoes, pickles, watermelon (both canned and as popsicles), greens, beans, squash, beets, onions, and Anaheim peppers. Whew!

For now I'll spare you the recipes and just hit you with the Big Lessons Learned:

*Canning is NOT hard. If you focus, it's not even all that time consuming and you'll get faster with practice.

*Home canned food does taste better. Mostly because you can make it the way you like it. I like my salsa with quite a big of vinegar. I like my beets with cinnamon. I like pickles with garlic. And now I can have them all that way. (As a caveat my kids balked as the first bottle of peaches we opened. But I thought they were pretty good; different from store bought, but good.)

*All that chopping and peeling can be good for your mental health. At least it has been for mine. It's a great way to unwind. I imagine it's the same feeling women get from quilting or doing needlepoint. I can be productive but not feel like a hamster on a wheel. I've got something to show for my work when I'm done and I can do it when the kids are around--sometimes they even help!

*Some tools are necessary. Things I couldn't live without: my potato peeler (which I actually mostly use on apples and carrots), my food processor (great for chopping onion and peppers), a cabbage slicer (cabbage is a pain to chop by hand and the food processor just purees the stuff), and a big ol' colander. I also bought a food dehydrator this year so that I can make apple chips and dry some of the herbs we get. But I could live without it.

Most community supported farms are looking to drum up cash during their down season and to cover their spring start up costs so they are offering discounts on shares. We've had another great year with our CSA--we tried new foods, learned new skills, and I honestly feel like it has given us better health. (No one in our house has been hit with the flu or a serious cold this year. *Knock on wood* We haven't even had an ear infection or high fever. Well, back in September E and J were down for a few days with a fever, but other that we've been healthy.) If you are at all interested check out what's in your area. Then I can start hitting you up for recipes!


Breakdown said...

I've canned since I was a kid. Tomato sauce is the primary activity since fruits and veggies are easy. Tomato sauce is a four step process, but once you've had it you will never be able to have the store brought stuff ever again.

Lura said...

Wow, this is so awesome! I will definately look into A CSA around here. I am totally intimidated by canning, but I want to learn! You've inspired me.