Extending the harvest
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Tragedy struck a friend in late September when, due to faulty shelving, much of the food she’d preserved during the summer—canned pickles and bolognese sauce, jam and salsa—came crashing onto her kitchen floor. Those of us who were aware of the amount of energy it takes to store sustenance for the future were aghast, and within a few days her supply of canned goods had been replenished. Donations also included replacement canning supplies, dried mushrooms and fruit, fresh vegetables, alcohol and stoney edibles (hey, everything helps).
My friend’s calamity got me thinking about my own stock of gustatory goods as we head into the dark abyss. I’ve managed to freeze plentiful bags of blackberries, plums and homemade tomato sauce and put away enough garlic to get through to spring, but my delicata squash crop was decimated by squirrels and I neglected to plant a fall crop of radishes, spinach and kale. Soon, I’ll need to look beyond the backyard and suss out what’s available when it comes to procuring fresh produce.
October is the perfect time to make a plan for the pantry, as many area farmers markets—including the Anacortes Farmers Market, the Blaine Gardeners Market, the Birchwood Market, and the two venues comprising the Twin Sisters Market—continue weekly through the end of the month. The Bellingham Farmers Market will be in operation from 10am-2pm Saturdays through Dec. 19 at the Depot Market Square, which means they’ll be available when it comes to planning holiday feasts. If you’re hoping to score a deal on produce, I’ve found visiting markets later in the day equates to bigger savings, as farmers are eager to unload their haul before heading home for the day.
Another suggestion from Eat Local First (http://www.eatlocalfirst.org) points the way to Fall CSAs now offered by entities such as Mariposa Farms. Due to the pandemic, the organic family farm wasn’t able to sell their edible wares at as many farmers markets as they typically do, and have been left with a ton of surplus. Like many farms, they have shifted their operations to a community supported agriculture model, and now offer weekly produce boxes. Visit the Eat Local First website for a more complete listing of fall and winter CSAs, and dream about what you’ll make with your weekly haul.
We’re also lucky to have the Skagit Food Co-op (http://www.skagitfoodcoop.com) in Mount Vernon and two Community Food Co-ops (http://www.communityfood.coop) in Bellingham—the latter of which is committed to sourcing produce directly from small family farms whenever they can. “This is where the good food comes from,” they say, and I agree.
If you’d like to be like my aforementioned friend and learn how to extend the longevity of your purchases, head to the National Center for Home Food Preservation (http://www.nchfp.uga.edu) to get step-by-step instructions about pickling, canning, freezing and drying food on your own. Once you’ve mastered the desired technique, store your bounty for fall and winter—just make sure your shelving is stable.
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