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Continuing from January and February, our monthly food storage report:

 

The root cellar is starting to look a little more bare.

 

The carrots are now completely done; actually, they did not make it past the first bit of February before we weren’t really able to find non-bitter carrots.  I didn’t mind them being wrinkly, especially if we were using them in soups and stews, but I don’t tolerate bitter very well.  The goats are enjoying them as treats we dole out, however, so it is not a total waste.

 

The cabbages still look more or less fine.  As in last month, the outer leaves have dried out and discolored, but the heads themselves are still firm and tasty.

 

About half the remaining beets are fine – still firm and not sprouting too much.  The other half are starting to go soft, but are still completely edible.

 

The potatoes are fine.  I am still amazed by the potatoes.

 

The onions are going strong, but we are running out.  We are down to the little ones that are a pain in the butt, because you need 3 or 4 for a recipe.  Next year, we plan to plant 50% more – 600 sets, instead of 400.  It does not appear that they will rot before we can use them up, even the tiny ones, which is great.

 

The squash seem to have hit a wall this month.  About half of the remaining pumpkins, as well as a couple of the spaghetti squash, sprouted black gooey spots and mold in late February.  I am not certain if they just hit their ‘use by’ dates, or if it had something to do with us moving them into a different room of the house (they had to be moved, as we were painting the room they had been in).  The new room is just as cool as their former location, but may have had higher humidity.  Also, they wound up being more bunched together, rather than being spread out on the floor, simply due to the fact that we were putting a lot of stuff in that room in order to be able to paint the other room – air flow may have been an issue, as well.  At any rate, they were not a total waste, as the chickens really appreciate the squash, so we cut out the black and mushy bits to compost, and fed the rest to the poultry.

 

So as far as veggies go, we’ve already started having to buy carrots, and will be buying onions soon.  We’re fine for potatoes and cabbage, and the beets are so-so.  Suddenly, I am really noticing how well-suited the basic Ukrainian diet is for this region – perogies are flour dough, potatoes, onions, saurkraut, and cheese – things that store well here.  Same with borscht – beets and cabbage and sour cream.  Something to keep in mind when you’re planning your winter meals, anyhow.

 

As far as the other food storage goes, we’re starting to run out of some things.  I made too much jam and jelly this year, or did not give enough away, or something, but those shelves are still quite full.  We have not used any of the fruit syrup we made, though we’ve given some away, and it was very appreciated.  We still have lots of pears, peaches, and raspberries, but those are ones that always last fine through the winter and disappear in a flash come hot weather.  Salsa, however, we’re rationing, as we’d rather not have to buy it – it’s expensive, and not nearly as tasty from the store.  I should can several times as much this fall (if I can find the energy!).

 

The frozen stuff is much the same.  We have plenty of some things (corn, peas), too much of others (wax beans), and not nearly enough of a few things (peaches, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mangoes).  I don’t think I miscalculated that badly on the fruit; I just seem to be having smoothies a lot more often than I used to.  I blame it on the pregnancy – I crave cold stuff frequently, but don’t want to load up on ice cream, so I make a nice, healthy smoothie, instead…almost daily…and have decimated my frozen fruit supply in the process.  Next year, we’ll put up extra, especially with the extra freezer downstairs, although it is fairly full with chicken, right at the moment.

 

Overall, we’re doing not bad.  I am not too happy about the squash crashing like it has, and we’re spreading them out better in an effort to get better air flow to the survivors.  I suspect that squash could store a whole lot longer, anyhow.  I’m still very happy with the potatoes, cabbage, and beets, and I have some ideas for how to stretch the carrots next year.  Onions – like I said, we’ll be planting a lot more come spring.  And we’ll adjust what we plant for the freezer (more peas, fewer beans) as well as making more of an effort to get fruit in the freezer, and spending maybe a little less effort on the jams and jellies.  We’ll get it all figured out eventually!

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Yesterday, for some extremely odd reason, I woke up early, with lots of energy.  So I cleaned out the pantry.  I’m clearly crazy.

 

It got me to thinking, though, that I have not really talked a whole bunch about our successes (and failures) with storing our produce from the garden.   With time on my hands, this morning, it seems like a good time to share that information.

 

As you may recall, I canned a lot of jam, jelly, salsa, and fruit this fall.  Most of it is still there.  The jam and jelly and salsa we have been using a bit at a time, but we make tons extra, and give it away as gifts, so I don’t have a set amount to make each year.  We don’t seem to eat a lot of canned fruit through the winter – when we really enjoy it is in the spring and summer, eaten with a spoon in lieu of a meal on a hot day, or served over ice cream.  I did discover, however, that while it is fine to leave the skin on the pears and the nectarines, it is truly essential to skin the peaches prior to canning – the fuzz on my tongue makes me feel like I’m trying to eat a cat.  At any rate, the canning pantry is still quite full, and that’s about what we expected for this time of year.

 

The root cellar has been a mixed success.  We harvested mid-September through mid-October, but there were still a lot of warm days after some of the crops were pulled in.  However, some of the roots (like beets) don’t like frost, and our first frost came mid-September, so Nature set our harvest date for us.  We were expecting a hard freeze and even heavy snow by Halloween, which would be normal enough for this area, but in fact, we did not get real cold and snow until mid-November.  Oh, well.  Better to harvest a little early than to lose the harvest entirely!

 

The root cellar started out fairly humid, as the basement had been flooded in the spring, due to a water delivery fellow who did not know where the hole for filling the cistern was, and chose wrong – the dirt floor of the root cellar absorbed a fair bit of water.  However, our furnace is in the basement, and has really dried things out down there.  We put most of the root veggies (except the potatoes) in plastic rubbermaid containers, covered with garbage bags (that we could move on or off to control the humidity), in order to prevent them from drying out too much.  That has worked better for some things than others, and we’ve had occasional problems with mold, as a result.

 

The turnips, most of which had some level of worm damage, had to be disposed of in late November or early December.  Some, we cut the mushy bits off and fed to the goats, but a lot of them just had to be composted.  When they went, it was very fast; a couple of weeks prior, I had taken out a turnip for soup, and had not noticed any issues with the rest of the bag.  If we have bees next fall, we might try cutting out the damaged bits and waxing them, but I’m not willing to dip my food in paraffin, which is a petroleum product, so we did not do that this year.  Apparently, due to the amount of canola (a relative of turnips, broccoli, and cabbage) grown in this area, turnip pests are heavy and endemic, and we have been told we are doing well if we get any crop at all, especially without spraying, so we’re not too disappointed with our results.

 

The beets are still going strong.  They have not gotten moldy, wrinkly, mushy, or otherwise disgusting.  Too bad we did not get much of a harvest, as they look to be one of the big successes in the cellar.

 

The carrots are doing so-so.  We had early problems with rot from too much humidity, but now we’re finding an awful lot of limp, wrinkly roots that taste bitter.  There are still a lot of good ones, but Hubby is saying he does not think they’ll last much into February, at the rate we’re going.  Given that we harvested something in the realm of 200 pounds, we will have plenty of carrots right up until they get too gross to eat.  Happily, the non-wrinkly carrots still taste fantastic.

 

I can see why potatoes are a staple in northern climates.  They are all still fine, almost as crunchy as the day we harvested them, with no special care at all.  We just dumped them in burlap sacks in the root cellar and ignored them, really.  We used the blemished ones early – we assumed that the scars from the digging fork would probably cause them to rot early – but we have not found a single rotten potato yet at all.

 

We bought a 20 pound bag of cabbages from the store in the fall – sometime before Halloween – they were very cheap, and I wanted to know how well they would store.  Some of the outer leaves have gotten dried out, but you just peel off the top few layers, and the cabbage underneath is fine.  They will clearly do well in our cellar.

 

We’ve also been keeping eggs in the root cellar, as we’ve long since run out of room in the fridge – there’s four dozen in the cellar, and two dozen in the fridge, right at the moment.  We really weren’t prepared for winter eggs. The cellar seems to keep them just fine, and we’ve eaten eggs out of there that were several weeks old, and they were as tasty as the ones from the fridge.  I’ve read that you can store fresh, unwashed eggs in the fridge for up to 9 months, or up to 2 or 3 months on the counter, so presumably the root cellar is a fine place for them.

 

We did not keep the onions in the root cellar; they and the winter squash went in an unused bedroom with the furnace vent covered, so they stayed cool and dry.  We had one squash (a very small one, probably immature when we picked it) go bad in December, but the rest are still fine.  We’ve picked out the odd mushy onion, but they are also going strong.

 

The tomatoes were mostly goners in late November and early December.

 

We still have some frozen fruit from prior years, but we are going to have to freeze up quite a lot more this year, as I am absolutely burning through it right now.  We did not put much fruit in the freezer this year, as we did not find the local U-pick operations in time.   Hopefully, the strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries we planted will start bearing this year or next, and we can just freeze our own, though I question if we will really have enough to be able to get through the whole year.

 

We figured out our annual corn quota a few years ago, and we’re on track to have enough again this year.  I wish we’d had more peas to freeze, though.  We’ve got plenty of green beans; probably even more than we’ll use this year, as it has been so mild we’ve not really been making soup, which is where I usually go through the bulk of my frozen beans.

 

We are still buying a lot from the store, especially dairy and fresh fruit and veggies, as, with me being pregnant, we need to keep up eating lots of good, fresh food.  However, our days of buying frozen fruit and veggies from anywhere else are over, and I am impressed with the beets and potatoes.  I don’t imagine the root cellar will carry us all the way through to the early harvests in July, but I am curious how close we’ll get.   All in all, I am happy with these early attempts at feeding ourselves from our own land, though we still have lots to learn!

 

 

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Back in Alberta, we used to drive to a nearby town in the summertime, and get cases of fruit, fresh from BC, for $25 to $35 per 20 pound case.  Peaches, plums, nectarines, concorde grapes, even tomatoes, you name it.  The lady ran the stand, sometimes with her daughter, while her husband was back in BC, picking fruit at their mixed organic farm, or arranging to sell other growers’ produce cooperatively.  We had consistent access to relatively cheap, definitely high quality, tasty produce, Wednesday through Saturday, just a ten minute drive from our house.  The lady would even set cases of stuff aside for regular customers, and additionally had less-pretty fruit available for a discount, if she knew you were into canning.  In the autumn, there were several Taber corn trucks that also tended to spring up,as well,  from which you could buy a 72-cob bag of premium Taber sweet corn, for under $50.

 

This town is not going to be like that, I’m afraid.

 

Based on having been spoiled in Alberta, I assumed I could continue to pick up whatever I might need, for a reasonable price.  So far, however, there has been only one fruit stand in evidence, and when Hubby and I dropped by to check it out, the quoted prices were nuts ($85 for a 20-pound case of sweet cherries, $60 for a case of nectarines).  In addition, more than half of the fruit in the trays had little store stickers on them, indicating they had come from Washington, California, and Chile.  So much for fresh BC fruit.

 

We thought maybe the farmer’s market would be a little better, and we went there today, since we happened to be in town on market day.  We were hoping to find some reasonably-priced raspberries, as canned raspberries are a staple around here.  The one fella who had brought raspberries had already sold out, and anyways, the prices were not all that reasonable – $5 for about a pint.  We’re used to paying $10 at a U-pick for a gallon bucket.

 

We wandered around the market, and were generally really disappointed.  Outside of the guy who was out of raspberries, there was a table that had two onions and two pints of red currants, a few tables selling jams and pickles, three tables of baking, a seller offering various sausages and meat, and a table full of green and yellow wax beans.  Where were the new potatoes?  The snap peas?  The saskatoon berries?  We have been harvesting all of these here at the Acreage.  I know for a fact that summer squash and salad greens and radishes and dill are all ready right now, as well as basil, strawberries, sunflowers, baby beets, and who-knows-what-else…all of these things should, in theory, be on the tables at that market.  This town is at least two or three times the size of the Alberta town where our little fruit stand was, and all of these things would be on offer at that farmer’s market right now, along with cucumbers, hothouse tomatoes and peppers, flower bunches, stone-oven-baked fresh bread, local fruit wines, freshwater fish, and BC fruit.

 

Maybe next year, we’ll plant a bigger garden and add some variety to that sad little market.  I am really worried about how we are going to source local fruit and veggies that we haven’t grown for ourselves.  I think our corn, and maybe also our cukes and squashes went in too late to bear in the short season we have, and outside of wildcrafted berries, we don’t have any fruit here at the Acreage at all.  I guess we could buy stuff from the Co-op or Safeway, but I hate to spend that kind of money and see it all go to the middlemen, rather than the farmers.   Not a happy camper, here…

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