Monday, 15 October 2012

storing vegetables for the winter

I happened to come across the ninjamatics Canadian Weblog Awards this morning. It sounded kind of fun. If you happen to be inclined to nominate this blog that would be lovely. Nominations for 2012 close Nov. 31 (which doesn't actually exist but I'll take the whole thing on faith...) Cooper Road CSA would probably be most appropriate for the Gardening and New Weblog categories. Here is the link  

Thank you in advance if you make a nomination!  But enough of distractions - time for this week's post.

 Now that we have had a hard frost and there is a remote, but real possibility of the ground freezing hard, it is the time to finish storing vegetables for the winter. There are many possibilities including freezing, canning, drying, storing in the fridge and in a root cellar and basement.

I have been a fan of canning for quite a few years. I like the fact that once you've finished processing the jars you don't need to consume any more energy to store them. Plus they can look quite beautiful.
Jellies and jams above, various kinds of heirloom tomato sauces below

Originally we bought a freezer for the farmhouse to take advantage of buying meat and poultry from small local producers. These farmers generally butcher their meat two or three times a year only. A freezer turns out to be the only real way to keep a good stock of locally pasture raised meat and poultry. Buying from these farmers means you are supporting local sustainable agriculture and helping to make it a viable alternative to factory farmed, antibiotic and hormone infused, inhumanely raised livestock.

Freezers work most efficiently when full. Once we had one we found it to be a great way to freeze freshly picked fruit and berries, vegetables and all kinds of pesto.
Grated zucchini for an ongoing supply of chocolate zucchini cake and zucchini bread

Oven roasted Juliet tomatoes and green beans

Flash frozen strawberries, rhubarb and cultivated blueberries

Basil, mint and garlic scape pesto and chimichurri
The Fridge
I don't have a root cellar so I store my carrots and beets in perforated plastic bags in the crisper compartment of the fridge. If they aren't washed and are stored as soon as they are pulled from the ground they can stay crisp for months.
Freshly pulled carrots; orange, white, yellow, red and two kinds of purple
Potatoes and winter squash need to be harvested and then seasoned in the sun. Potatoes aren't washed and since they can start to be harvested in the summer it usually takes just an afternoon of warm August sun to harden the skins a little. I am lucky to have a basement with a dirt floor and high ceiling. The temperature in the fall and winter hovers just above freezing - perfect for storing potatoes. I hang them in net onion bags from nails. Different varieties vary in how long they keep - some until February or March and the French Fingerlings often keep until close to May.
Banana and French Fingerling potatoes

Winter squash also needs to be seasoned in the sun but this a bit trickier since they don't ripen until late September or even October. Since it wasn't warm or sunnier enough this fall I tried seasoning them in the window sills of my unheated front porch. They like to be stored on wooden shelves at a higher temperature than potatoes. So it's a bit of an experiment to see how they'll fare in the coolish basement.
Buttercup squash, my favourite
Acorn Squash
Heeling in
This year I have tried pulling my leeks and "heeling them in".
Newly pulled leeks

You dig a trench and put the leeks in standing up (no need to trim the roots or clean them).

Then you cover much of them with soil from the trenches.

Next I placed straw on the outside "walls" and filled the whole area with fallen leaves. They should last for awhile but I'm not so sure about when we get deep snow. I guess we'll see if the supply of leeks lasts long enough for that to be an issue.

Heirloom shelling beans are shelled and dried on screens until you can't dent them with your thumb nail. Then they go into mason jars.

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