"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

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Preserved and Preserving

It's almost mid-July and the summer gardens are off to a fair albeit rocky start. We have had to take some pretty drastic measures to assure a good harvest for this season...more on that in a subsequent post. Some things are going quite well for us though. For instance, we are still eating and enjoying last year's squash,

beets, potatoes and carrots. The carrots are starting to taste a bit bland but everything else has retained it's flavor quite well.

Micki just finished sorting through our garlic and she came up with more than enough good cloves to see us through until our August harvest. We also have plenty of canned goods left in the pantry although we are out of pickles. I miss my pickles and hope to have the chance to can many more this fall than I did previously.

We have been busy harvesting kale, bunches of kale. Each one of these large ugly orange tubs, bought on sale after Halloween last year for almost nothing, equates to only 3 quarts of blanched and frozen greens, hard to believe, but true. So far we have 15 quarts frozen and will be satisfied once we harvest about 5 more. Mostly, we use these greens for kale and potato soup during the winter months when the fresh ones are harder to come by and I think this winter is going to be a doozy so we are putting up a bit extra. Which reminds me that I will need even more than that as it is also a vital ingredient in our homemade dog food.

Kale is an excellent green for freezing. We blanch them for a couple-three minutes, cool in ice water, wring them out like a rag, spread out on a towel to dry a bit more, mix with a hint of olive oil and pack into freezer bags.

Yesterday I picked a good gallon and half of strawberries which we also froze. Most of our plants have been thinned out and transplanted this year to various locations throughout the garden, considering all the abuse they have received I am happy to see them all starting to fill out with berries...lots of berries. We grow an extremely hardy ever bearing plant that needs no winter cover and on a good year will provide three crops of berries the last two being smaller in number than the first but with much bigger berries. I suspect that these particular strawberries are actually a "day-neutral " variety that, unlike prolific June-bearing strawberries, will continuously produce fruit anytime the temperatures are above freezing and the sun is still shining, often well into October. Lack of water and weeds are their primary enemies.

Our walking onions are filling out with nice little clusters of bulblets on top of their stems. Either end can be eaten but normally the bulblets are used for new onions and the in-ground bulbs for eating. They are often called "Egyptian" walking onions because they tend to become top heavy, fall over, and replant themselves. Honestly, I'm still not sure what any of this has to do with Egypt? Ever since a friend sent us some a couple years ago we have been busy growing them out in order to enlarge our patch. I can't begin to explain how fascinating I find this particular type of crazy allium, sometimes I just sit there and look at them shaking my head in wonder.

Last but not least our strawberry spinach plants are doing quite well, they seem to flourish come hell or high water, growing and producing regardless of the weather. Although the little "Malt-O Meal" flavored berries are much sweeter if they have adequate water and sunlight. The flavorless leaves on this plant are high in vitamins (especially C and A) and along with the the berries are a great addition to any salad. Be aware that once planted they do tend to readily and vigorously re-seed themselves. I would love to know more about the nutritional benefits of the berries themselves if anyone ever runs across any information?


Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Everything is looking so good for you there! Our Spring was too short and Summer came too early. How I wish I could trade you a few dill pickles for some kale! If you have a good pickle recipe I hope you'll share it. I was never very successful with canned vinegar pickles. I have never seen that strawberry spinach (is that what you called it)...it looks really wonderful.

I don't think I will ever figure this whole thing out. I had to buy beets and cabbage at the Farmer's Market...that's a first! We are ever so dependent on God to give us our bounty. Just when we think we are "self sufficient"...opps out comes the rug!!!

Mrs. Mac said...

I've heard we may have heavy snowfall this winter. Your crops look good. The kale is a keeper.

Faith Kolean said...

Strawberry spinach looks so neat. Mine is about an inch tall. Nice kale harvest too. Kale is way underrated. Have a great week.

ThyHandHathProvided said...

Those onions are fascinating! I have never heard of walking onions. I love coming here and learning things:-). Your kale looks lovely and will taste evening lovelier this winter- I hope you are able to put up all you hope for.

Mavis said...

Dear Mr. H... I'm curious... why do you think "this winter will be a doozy?" Do you think it will be super cold & we will get lot's of snow? What are your Mountain Man/ Hermit instincts telling you? Do I need to stock up? Seriously... I NEED TO KNOW!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you have posted on kale today, here in Australia mine are coming along nicely and we had some with dinner tonight but I was wondering how it froze as I've never grown it before, so a BIG thank you! I've never seen the strawberry spinach before and don't know if we can get it here in Aus but I'll have to keep an eye out for that one, looks great!


LynnS said...

Your root veggies still look fantastic, Mike. You guys must have the world's best cellar in that house -- you are so very fortunate. Unless we build something in the side of a hill, we are out of luck having a root cellar. We have talked of packing root veggies in our outside crawl-space "cellar" under the kitchen portion of our home, but we would have more mice than we would ever want. (And we have plenty as it is!) Count your blessings!

Onions -- truly, the alliums are the #1 weirdest plant family. Interesting story on the everbearing berries. I've never tried growing them and don't know anyone in this area who has either. Sounds like those are the best ones for your climate.

Sorry to hear you have no more canned pickles. You'll have to double your efforts this year, won't you? Lucky for us pickle-eaters, they're easy to do.

I agree with you on all accounts with Kale. It's one of our favorite veggies. And Kale is so easy to blanch/freeze. All of the leafy greens are, really, it's just kinda disappointing to see so much bulk reduce-down to so little going into the containers. You have some beautiful basket loads of fresh Kale there now. The green works well with the orange, too, btw.

Yes, we're going to have an odd Winter. Time to prep! Between the weather and the economy, we should all save more and put up more foods. (I love hoarding...)

Tell Micki I enjoyed seeing that death grip on the Kale. I'd hate to see how she takes a fish off the line though.... ;-)

Mr. H. said...

Diane - When we canned our pickles this past year we added grape leaves, garlic, red pepper flakes, dill fronds, and horseradish to the mix and they turned out great...nice and crunchy. I think the grapes leaves, using smaller cucumbers, and cold packing them made all the difference. If I come across the exact recipe I will let you know.

The strawberry spinach also called beetberry Is a very interesting plant and easy to grow but also very invasive if you are not careful to pick all the seedy little fruits.

Mrs. Mac - It would not surprise me at all to see a lot more snow this year considering the lack of it in 2009 and this years cool wet spring.

Faith - Kale is underrated considering it is one of the most nutritious and cold hardy greens out there. We love it.

Thy Hand - The walking onions are fun and remind me of some sort of multi tentacled sea creature. We are looking good in the kale department, our gardening nemesis, aphids, have just begun to show up. They always make a mess out of all our brassicas so I am glad we got a head start on freezing it this year.

Mavis - There is an old Native American saying "You know it will be a cold winter if the pale face cuts lots of wood." We have cut a whole lot of wood this year.:)

Seriously though, because of the lack of snow this past winter, our very rainy spring, and the fact that many are predicting a La Nina due to colder ocean temperatures I think we might end up with more cold snowy weather. I believe our last La Nina was in 2007/08 and brought record snowfall in our area.

Anonymous - Thanks for stopping by and I am glad that you found the information on kale to be helpful. Hope you are having a good winter.

Mr. H. said...

Lynn - A cooler spring has helped keep all our cellered produce in good shape this year. Honestly, the beets, squash, potatoes, and garlic still taste great. Our basement temperature was 58°yesterday when I looked, so it is starting to warm up as 35-45°is ideal for us.

We will be picking more strawberries again today before the robins get too many of them. It's a time consuming job as we do have a whole lot of plants to pick off of.

Our cucumbers are starting to grow and I think there will be just enough time for them to produce a good harvest. I think it was your advice on making them that helped ours to turn out so good last year.:)

Hoard away, because I think you are right on both accounts...things are going to be very interesting over the next few years. We will be honing our skills and preparing for the worst.

Micki does have quite a knack for wringing out the kale...she doesn't like touching fish though and makes Hunter do all of the work.

michelle said...

I do love kale also but fortuntely it is at its best in the winter here and I don't need to freeze any. It amazes me how well your cellared veggies hold up. And I'm envious of those strawberries. I was getting a pretty steady little crop of them until the rats attacked.

Mr. H. said...

Michelle - We are also surprised with the quality of produce after being in storage for many months. Other than cool temperatures it is just a matter of staying on top of things, removing any "bad apples" and not allowing anything to sprout.

To think I was upset with the little bunny that has been sneaking into the garden, I'll take him over rats any day.:)

Anonymous said...

am very interested in how and where do you keep carrots after harvesting? I think I will have more than we will need, so I’m not sure to freeze them or what?
On the kale topic, thanks for posting the recipe how to freeze them. I will do exactly the same thing this weekend. There is so much kale and I can’t use it fast enough.

Mr. H. said...

Vrtlarica - Many people leave their carrots in the ground under cover of straw and pull them a few at a time as needed all winter long. We pull ours and keep them in totes full of sand in the root cellar. They will keep this way for a very long time if the temperature is cool enough 35-45°F (2°C - 7°C).

They can be stored that way at slightly higher temperatures too but you will have to be diligent in keeping the sprouts cut back.

Leigh said...

This is such an encouraging post. I love that you're still eating some of last year's squash and root crops. I only hope mine do so well this year.

I've been curious about the Egyptian walking onions. How do they compare in flavor to the kinds of onions we're usually accustomed to?

Carolemc said...

I must try your technique for freezing Kale this year - not to mention the soup! - as we love Kale and I've grown much more of it this year to try to see us through for longer.

Frugilegus said...

What bounty! And so jealous of your strawberries...

My walking onions are at a similar stage to yours but the Strawberry Spinach you inspired me to try is somewhat smaller at 2 inches high. But that's three times bigger than last year's bonsai effort and this time it's still growing.

Mr. H. said...

Leigh - Other than the size difference the Egyptian onions taste very similar to regular onions. The real benefit for us is that they can be left to over winter in the ground as they are so very cold hardy and not prone to rotting as a regular onion would be.

I hope your veggies grow really well for you this year.:)

Carolemc - Kale holds up quite well after being blanched making it a nice green for freezing. You will have to try some kale and potato soup, it's so good.

Frugilegus - Ah yes, I remember that you do like your berries...me too.:)

To bad about your strawberry spinach being so tiny as they really do become quite large...almost bush like. We gathered almost a quart of the little berries off two plants the other day so they do porduce pretty well. If yours does not turn out I hope you give it another chance next season as I think you might like this plant...grow little plant grow.:)

kitsapFG said...

Love the baskets full of kale. :D

I am growing more of it this year because my chickens adore it and I want to have plenty for us and to share with them also. Right now, they are getting virtually all of the kale harvest that is coming out of the garden - so I obviously need to grow lots more! I like to freeze spinach and swiss chard the same way you described for kale. I don't add the oil though and think that is an excellent idea. I imagine it helps keep freezer burn away?

Mr. H. said...

Laura - We give a lot of our kale thinnings to the chickens as well. Like you said they go nuts over kale or any brassica for that matter. In previous years we grew brussel sprouts solely for the purpose of feeding it to the chickens.

We use the oil (just a bit) not only for freezer burn but to help seperate the leaves when frozen if we only want a small portion of them. This really works well for frozen basil.

Heiko said...

Only just getting around to do some catching up. Strawberry spinach?!? Whatever next? Sounds fascinating!

You really do have to be organised if you are still having to rely paretially on your preserves this late on. Our larder is just filling up again with, amongst other things, pickles: pickled gherkins, pickled purslane, pickled raddishes, or a mixture of the all. Hmm pickles!

Hopewell said...

What beautiful plants! Most of my garden got washed away and I was heartsick and didn't replant. I do have some Chard growing and a cabbage or two that the birds and the rain missed!! Your site is inspiring!

Mr. H. said...

Heiko - I've got a couple other strange and unusual plants up my sleeve for this year still.:)

You do like your pickled produce...me too. One of our biggest focuses over the past couple years is growing food that can hold up in our own personal root cellar conditions and I am estatic with the results.

Hopewell - Sorry to hear about the garden but still, chard and cabbage...two of my favotite plants to be sure. Thank you for visiting.:)

Roasted Garlicious said...

Mr H i also have Egyptian Onions, the same few plants for years... i love them!! as for the kale.. the green goddess of winter!!!

Stefaneener said...

I'd love to hear more about your homemade dog food. We're anxiously awaiting word about the puppy we hope to have this fall.

Sense of Home said...

That is a lot of Kale!

I've been extra busy preserving food lately as well. I put up a box of spinach and ended up with only 4 cups to put in the freezer, but that is 2 more cups than last year.

We are also trying to preserve much of our food to eat on next winter. I am amazed that you still have some left from last year, ours ran out the first or second week of May.

It is a lot of work, but this week when there was a recall on lettuce, we had nothing to worry about and plenty of salads from our garden.

Mr. H. said...

Roasted Garlicious - Kale is a winter green goddess for sure. The Egyptian onions are so fun, I'm glad you are able to experience them as well.

Stefaneener - A puppy? How neat is that, I hope you do get one and can't wait to hear more about it.

As to the dog food, we simply cook up enough potatoes, carrots, squash, peas, parsnips, steamed kale, parsley, a handful of berries, a jar of tomato sauce, meat & eggs, and oats to bind for a one month supply of dog food. We dish the mixture (50% veggies and 50% meat/eggs) into containers that hold 4 servings each and freeze. I wrote a bit about this at - http://subsistencepatternfoodgarden.blog


Sense of Home - Your last statement about the recall is one of the biggest reasons we grow our own food. I hope your freezers and pantry over flow with homegrown foods.:)

ChrisJS said...

Such a useful blog (even for us UK self-sufficientiers) thanks

Mr. H. said...

Thanks Chris, I appreciate that.

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