There are lots of things I like to eat that don’t grow around here. Mandarin oranges, for instance, and sweet cherries. Coffee, chocolate, mangoes, cinnamon. If I am going to eat these, I don’t really have much choice but to buy them at the store. Back in Alberta, I could at least buy BC fruit (cherries, peaches, plums) from grower-run stands, but I have yet to see such a stand here where we live. So, the grocery store is my supplier. As much as I would like to keep my eating local, I also want to be able to enjoy food I can’t grow; I feel that growing our own or buying local for things that grow here, but continuing to indulge in ‘far away’ treats is not entirely unreasonable. However, I still try to follow the seasons with my non-local food purchases, so I can get it as close to home as possible – peaches from B.C., for instance (in season shortly), versus peaches from Mexico (which is what you’d get in January).
Then there is the stuff that we could grow, but haven’t got a harvest of yet – blueberries, for instance, and apples, and plums. Sour cherries, also, and pears and hazelnuts. We have planted all of these, but the trees and bushes are not yet bearing, and mostly won’t be for some time yet. Some of these things, we have gotten lucky and found a local source for – apples and raspberries, in particular. However, we have never found someone selling local blueberries, nor pears, nor sour cherries, which is a shame, as we would really like to buy these things from a local seller, since we are going to buy them anyways. Especially with pregnancy last year, and now with a baby who will be starting on solids in the next 6 months, I am not going to be a purist about eating only what we can grow or acquire locally. Being healthy and well-nourished trumps heroic efforts at local eating, or even making political statements, for me. However, I do find it sad that there is so little opportunity to buy local varieties of things that actually grow very well here. Once we get a transfer down to the farm, and have the space and irrigation water to do so, we plan to BE the local supplier of several things, but I digress…
All of this is a long lead-in to the fact that I have seventy pounds of random fruit sitting in my kitchen that needs dealing with, not counting the 20+ pounds I have already put up for the winter. Now is the season for sweet cherries, as well as blueberries from the West Coast (local blueberries are much later – more like the end of August, I believe). I have no idea what the season for mangoes actually is, but they are on sale by the case right now, and were on sale by the case this time last year, so I assume that means they are in season somewhere right at the moment. So I bought 50 pounds of them, as well as 20 pounds of sweet cherries and 20 pounds of West Coast blueberries. Ninety pounds of fruit…sounds a little excessive, doesn’t it? But we managed to chew through a lot more than that last year, and now we are three, so I am erring on the side of having too much, rather than too little.
So what do you DO with fifty pounds of mangoes? Well, last year, we dehydrated a ton of it, as well as freezing some. We found that, while we enjoy the dehydrated mango, we don’t eat that much of it, but we do love mango smoothies, and had to ration the frozen mangoes, so this year, it will all go into the freezer. You could also can it, but Hubby and I agreed that it would probably be too slimy for our tastes (mango is a little slimy at the best of times), and we couldn’t think of how we might ever use canned mango, so frozen it is.
The cherries will also mostly be going into the freezer. If I had been able to find sour cherries (also called pie cherries), I would have canned up a bunch for pie fillings and maybe jam. However, sweet cherries don’t make nearly as flavorful a jam, and are too sweet for making pie filling (in my own opinion), so they will also mostly be frozen. I am making an exception to try a recipe for cherry preserves that I think might be nice with yogurt, so 2 or 3 pounds will end up in the pantry, but the rest will be frozen for making smoothies and eating over yogurt and ice cream later, or possibly flavoring some applesauce that I plan to can in the fall, time and energy permitting.
Most years I would make blueberry jam, and even canned blueberries in light syrup (for pies and muffins), but I went overboard making both of these things last year, so this year’s berries are also being frozen. We absolutely burned through the frozen blueberries last year, so I am putting much more away.
We have picked most of the peas that we are likely to get from this year’s garden, and frozen those, too. While the harvest was rather disappointing, it was entirely our own fault…we had to excavate the peas from under a mat of thistles and nettles and other weeds before we could even harvest them – the garden got away on us, again.
The raspberries should be coming soon, as well. We won’t be able to harvest enough to meet our own needs for the entire year, but we’ll still get some, and there is a fellow from a nearby town who sells them for a reasonable price, so we’ll be buying some for…you guessed it…freezing. I would normally make jam and raspberry preserves, but we do still have plenty of those put away. I did not realize how much jam we were giving away in a typical year in Alberta, so we seem to have a glut.
You may be beginning to notice a pattern, here. It has been between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius for the majority of the last few weeks (save a few days when it has rained), and the idea of boiling anything on the stove for any length of time at all is not appealing. Freezing is a relatively quick and easy way to preserve seasonal fruit, especially if you like smoothies like we do, or if you like yogurt and fruit (my usual breakfast at work). It just happens that the fruit that is in season right now lends itself well to being frozen, though the peaches will be coming soon, and we generally like to can a bunch of those – however, when I was pregnant, I was less interested in eating the canned peaches and pears, so we still have a respectable stash of both, and I am debating whether or not to can any new ones this year at all. In the end, it will depend on the weather and my overall energy level, I suppose. It is amazing how much produce you need when you are planning for an entire year of eating, but I would rather be eating frozen blueberries that I bought for $2 per pound than paying $7 for per pound later for frozen berries, or $4 or 5 for a tiny clamshell package of berries in winter when we’re having a craving…
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