Larder may not be a familiar word in our modern times, but it was a very important thing in your great-great grandma’s day. It was the stash of food that families pickled, smoked, salted and preserved for the winter months ahead. A well stocked larder was often essential for survival for the pioneers since many times they lacked the luxury of a grocery store they could frequent if their supply ran short. Continue reading
Is it possible to have too many apples? It’s been a bumper year for apples on our Ohio homestead. We’ve made enough applesauce for ourselves and our extended family, shared some apples, and they still keep coming. Fortunately, there are lots of other great ways to preserve this versatile fruit and enjoy eating it all winter. Here are a few delicious solutions to try. Continue reading
As I plan my garden each spring, I think forward to what seeds I might want to save, and make sure that my garden is structured in such a way that I can do that. I only save easy seeds — I have not yet bothered with isolation tents or hand pollination — so the ones I do save usually come at me pretty easily. Continue reading
Organic gardener, author, blog contributor, and mother of five, Karen Geiser, is no stranger to country living. She shares her expert advice with customers just as if they have pulled up a chair on her front porch. . . and all the while shelling peas, pitting cherries, or churning butter (depending on what is in season on her farm).
We always enjoy hearing about fascinating customer connections that happen in our store. And Karen certainly has the pleasure of interacting with many visitors and hearing their stories!
Here are some recent tidbits she reports:
- Last week I met folks from Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil (Must have been Latin America day).
- A fellow from Pennsylvania visits frequently and always tells me about his garlic (which he got from me) that has won several blue ribbons at the county
- This week there were many good conversations over edible weeds – around the table were an herbalist from New Mexico and a family from West Virginia who really knew their plants.
- An interesting couple from Virginia who has lived off grid for many years visited the store to finally buy the luxury of a gas refrigerator – mainly to have ice. It’s hard to believe they could live without a fridge for so long, and they described how they can their butter.
- This week a lady said she was there from Robinson, IL because she heard me speak at the Master Gardener conference over a year ago. She had no idea she would run into me, and we had a good laugh together as she told me about the things she grew because I recommended them (like mouse melons). I helped her figure out other places to hit for her first adventure in Amish country. She said some of her girlfriends have visited Lehman’s after the conference, too.
Stop by Lehman’s on Thursdays, from April through early November to visit Karen and learn from her wealth of hands-on knowledge.
I’ve been learning a lot about permaculture in the past decade and while I subscribe to many of the theories, I do worry that many people who could benefit are turned off by the intensity of people teaching the subject. You don’t actually need classes or certificates nor do you need to dig up your entire backyard. It’s possible to engage in permaculture just by using plant varieties that will provide a source of food over decades.
One of our most productive, perennial food sources is asparagus. We put in bed in many years ago. Each spring we indulge. We eat asparagus steamed, roasted and chilled with a vinaigrette. When we tire of eating it fresh, we dry some (read on for how-to) for winter soups and pickle some, too. Asparagus is also easily frozen.
How to Start and Maintain an Asparagus Bed
A well-planned, well-maintained asparagus bed will produce every spring for decades! Asparagus needs full sun and should begin in a spot with a rich, sandy loam. It gets tall when it goes to seed, so don’t plant it where it will shade other sun-loving plants. You can start from seed (I have a tray of seeds starting right now) but you’ll wait a long time for your first meal. Most people choose to start with roots. They are usually sold in bunches of 25. Continue reading
It’s easy to eat local in Massachusetts in August. Sweet corn, vine ripened tomatoes, tender green beans, creamy milk and abundant eggs make consuming local food a treat. But come the dark days of January, that local diet is a lot harder to manage. That’s what food preservation is all about. You take what’s cheap, plentiful and delicious at the peak of its freshness and preserve it for later use. Preservation is all about manipulating the environment of food so it retains its goodness for months or even years.
Food has a lot of enemies. Microorganisms (mold, yeasts and bacteria) are enemies of food. So is physical damage (one bad apple really will spoil the whole bag). Enzymes that cause food to ripen don’t halt their work when food is harvested. They continue to work until that lovely cantaloupe becomes a sodden mass destined for the compost heap. Food preservation works by controlling the temperature (freezing and root cellaring) removing moisture (dehydrating) or killing mold, yeast and bacteria and then protecting from further contamination by removing and excluding air (canning). You can also change the environment of food by adding salt, sugar or vinegar.
So why discuss food preservation now? Here in Massachusetts the asparagus and rhubarb is still just a promise. The early strawberries won’t even make an appearance until June. We need to discuss it because now is the time to plan your garden, join your CSAor make contact with the farmer who will provide you with raw ingredients for the dilly beans and tomato sauce that will grace your January table.
It’s not too early to take an inventory of jars and lids, pectin and salt and make sure you can put your hands on the ladle and jar lifter when the happy days of canning arrive. I’ll be doing an inventory of what we ran out of and what I overdid so I can plan next year’s pantry. I know without looking that I ran out of peaches and applesauce (it was a terrible tree fruit year) but I rather overdid the tomato sauce. I find I still preserve like I did when I had 8 kids at home. There is only one child at home now, and I just don’t need as much food as I once did.
Before I decide on amounts I find it useful to consider the worst case scenario. What if one of my adult kids lost a job? Might they need some food support? Suppose we have a supply disruption? We have had them before and will certainly have them in the future. So what if I have too much sauce? Contrary to popular opinion, canned food does not need to be discarded after a year. As long as the seal is tight and the food looks and smells as it should it’s fine to eat. Last year was a bad year for cherries but no worries for me. I had canned over 100 quarts the year before and we are still eating those cherries.
So what’s on your agenda? Are you going to grow or purchase? What tools and equipment needs to be procured or replaced? Don’t be put off by the high price of good equipment. Go in with a friend or your sister or your church group. Get what you need now while supplies are good. Who knows what the summer may bring. Be prepared to eat well.