"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Summer's Over

The weather was not our friend this year but with a little luck and lots of work we managed a fairly good harvest. September - November are the months we work on pulling the majority of our crops out of the garden and getting them ready for the root cellar, freezer, dryer, etc...

The root cellar is our basement, we are lucky to live in an early 1900's cottage type house with a large cement basement that stays fairly cool year around. We keep potatoes,

carrots, beets,

kohlrabi, cabbage,

Belgian endive,

parsnips, turnips, apples, celery in the root cellar because the temperature and humidity is just about right for these crops. Squash,


and some of the tomatoes,

tomatillos, peppers,

eggplants are all kept in various parts of the house as it is less humid and has a more varied temperature range. Some of the tomatoes (Burpee Long Keeper) last all the way until spring if we are lucky. We also bring some pepper plants live in pots into the house in order to have peppers all the way into December.

We dry apples, pears, plums, tomatoes, walnuts, herbs, garlic, morel mushrooms, and beans.

Some are dried in the greenhouse and porch, but we do rely upon a food dryer for most of them as we have a very humid fall in our area that is not conducive to drying food.

The only herbs we freeze are basil and cilantro. We pick them, wash and dry the leaves as necessary, mix in a big bowl with a little olive oil and then pack them into freezer bags. This seems to make them keep better and allows us to easily separate the frozen leaves as needed. Tomatoes, tomatillos, ground cherries, and peppers are also frozen or made into sauce. Broccoli, beet greens, kale, garlic scapes and basil are made into a pesto and served over pasta. We also freeze some of the kale and use it in soups...it really freezes well and is an excellent addition to soups, omelets, or stir fry.

We freeze most of our berries

but are looking for alternatives to this as the berries make up about 60% of our freezer space. We had to use these two smaller freezers as a backup because our big one overfloweth, I suppose this is a good problem though , it's better to worry about not having enough space than not having enough stuff to fill my spaces.

Our goal is to eventually get away from the whole freezer thing, but we have not come up with a good solution to keeping almost 45 gallons of berries that we grow and gather from the wild each year.

If anyone has come up with a way to store berries in their natural state we would love to hear about it. We use them in smoothies for breakfast and would love to do away with freezing them but don't want the added sugar that canning would involve.

Below is a list I made several years ago to remind me not to forget any of my fall duties. The dates change according to the weather.


7/1 - 10/1- dry or freeze (basil & cilantro) herbs and make basil, broccoli pesto

9/01- pull beans for drying in greenhouse

9/15-25 - pull tomatoes (tomatoes in house for quick ripen and basement for slow ripen) and most peppers, tomatillos, ground cherries, and eggplants, pot up peppers to overwinter

9/15-25 - pick summer squash, check pear trees

9/25-10/1- pull and dry on porch, potatoes, winter squash, zucchini, cabbage, kohlrabi ( cabbage kohlrabi only if fearing frost, best to wait as long as possible) (remember that last November got really warm and I pulled cabbage, kohlrabi and potatoes to soon)

9/26-10/20- pick plums

10/1- get row covers ready

10/15-11/15- pot up for forcing, beets, dandelions, Belgian endive (do endive last), broccoli, cabbage plants, asparagus, parsley, and chard ...remember to bury extra greens in bags for the chickens

10/30-11/30- pot up rhubarb ( allow to frost for 3 weeks before bringing in ...see plant notes on forcing rhubarb)

10/1/-10/30- apples and cranberries

10/15- 11/01- pull carrots, pot up leeks, clean garden and greenhouse

11/01-11/15- cut back raspberry and grape vines

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Winter Greens

We plant over 30 "winter" salad greens, as we seem to be salad addicts, early in the spring all the way into October for greens to eat throughout the winter. Some of the greens we plant for winter fodder only last into December while others make it through until spring and provide us with fresh food 365 days a year. The Swiss chard and Russian kale in the pictures were planted in the spring and will be eaten throughout the winter.

Cold frames and row covers are used to protect the greens from the weather. They will freeze solid in the depths of winter but as long as they are protected from the elements they will do fine. Frequently we pick totally frozen salads in the winter and allow them to slowly thaw in a cool room before preparing... you honestly cannot tell the difference between mustard, kale, spinach, mache and a few others that have been thawed out from their fresh summer counterparts. Actually there is a difference in the brassicas, they taste much sweeter in the cold months.

Timing is everything though, some chard and kale get planted in spring so that they will have a stronger root system and provide bigger greens in March, April, and May when they come out of hibernation and some are planted in the late summer and early fall because the smaller leaves seem to withstand the cold much better. Big Swiss chard leaves will always turn to mush on us after a couple of heavy freeze and thaw cycles but the smaller chard leaves are much more hardy. Winter spinach, mache, mustard, turnip greens and chicory are always planted in the fall so that they will not go to seed before the cold sets in. Our garden is around 9-10,000 square feet and about 2,000 of that is used exclusively for winter greens.
Related Posts with Thumbnails