Saturday, October 18, 2008

Too much food from your CSA or garden?

This post at The World's Fair got me thinking.

Boom-and-bust is the nature of growing food in a temperate climate. I don't belong to a CSA but I garden and make use of farmer's markets. I enjoy processing my harvest to use over the winter - it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and a pronounced smugness that I'll be OK after civilization collapses. I'll be blogging some of my efforts over the next few weeks.

There are some simple ways to deal with excess produce. Share with neighbors and friends, especially those you know have limited food budgets. Maybe a friend can cook up some of your produce and share the result with you. Talk to your CSA about making some adjustments in the quantity they give you if you're really overwhelmed. Learn some simple preservation techniques.

Freezing is easy and you can re-use some of those ubiquitous plastic containers from purchased foods. A handy trick is to make a large batch of a dish and freeze it in meal-size portions for quick dinners down the road. Ratatouille is a favorite of mine - it uses up the bounty of tomatoes, peppers, and squash that happens every summer. Thaw some ratatouille, cook some pasta, sprinkle some cheese, and - viola! - dinner. It helps to have some frozen pesto (use ice cube trays), too, to brighten up the flavor.

Canning is more fuss but still not really difficult. Seek out cookbooks with recipes for small batches of canned food; once you've got the technique down, you can put up a few jars in not much time at all. A pantry shelf of pickles, salsa, and jam is beautiful and satisfying to look at. You can pickle almost any firm vegetable - green beans make tasty dilly beans; carrot sticks are delicious and crunchy; sweet-and-sour red cabbage is a Polish treasure. All make good additions to winter salads - use a firm lettuce like Romaine, toss with some thinly sliced red onion, other veggies, and pickle of your choice, dress with a simple vinaigrette, and top with croutons made from good bread. Croutons? Cube a slice of bread, spread the cubes on the toaster oven tray, and toast.

Yes, everyone's busy, but a few weekend afternoons spent putting up food can provide a winter's worth of food that will be better and cheaper than supermarket produce. Think of it as a life skill like being able to change a tire or mend a torn seam.

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