Our recent blast of cold, wet weather has been replaced by wonderful warm, sunny days this week, which is a real blessing. The heat loving crops did not like the “Summer That Never Was”. Production was down because of this, but we still had a respectable harvest overall. The boys and I have been putting in plenty of time in the garden, working on clean up, harvesting and storing the crops. We’re holding off just a little bit longer on the root veggies such as potatoes and carrots, but the garlic is cured and next year’s crop will be going in the ground soon, and over half of the onions are curing in the greenhouse. Most of the shell beans have been brought in, and I’m gathering seed heads from an assortment of cultivated and wild plants. In this post I’ll discuss the easiest vegetables to store and how to store them. These crops have all moved onto my “must plant” list because they require little or no processing and last reliably in storage for months. I also have a quick video of our awesome new root cellar makeover. August and the boys did a great job adding a ton of storage to the root cellar under our front porch. [Read more...]
Over the years I’ve received many inquires about what above ground root cellar type options might be available for people in cold and warm climates. For those in warm climates – sorry, the physics are not in your favor, unless you have a spring house, but this post will give you some ideas to keep homegrown food on the table year round. For those in cold climates – there are a number of above ground options that may help you store your harvest without processing for at least part of the non-growing season. We’ll cover those, too. First, let’s talk root cellar physics. (Don’t worry, I’ve got a minor in physics to go with my math degree – I’ll get you through this.) [Read more...]
The “Building an Eco Home” series is nine articles that were originally published in The Healthy Independent while we were in the process of building our current home. I have made only minor edits to include links and format for the online publishing. I will be discussing green building and remodeling in more detail in upcoming posts, so if you want to know more about a topic, please make a request.
For those of you who are new to our “eco-home”, let me provide a brief overview of progress to date. Our goal at the start of this project was to build a home that conserved energy and resources, was accessible for family and friends with physical limitations, and had enough acreage that we could fully pursue our interests in organic gardening, orcharding, heirloom plants and livestock and other outdoor pursuits.
Finding the right property in our budget was a challenge, but we did it. (Read more about that in part 2.) House placement and access presented some more challenges, but we finally broke ground in October 2004. Just about everything that could happen to slow things down, did, but we are finally nearing completion. Hopefully by the end of May or early June we will be moving into our new home. [Read more...]
We built a root cellar under our front porch. Typically, if you’re building new your porch floor is formed out of a concrete slab, you need to put a foundation wall under it anyway, so why not put this area to good use? Even if you can’t deal with (or don’t want to deal with) traditional root cellaring (storing vegetables and fruit), you could use the space as a wine cellar, gun cabinet, place to brew beer, a battery room for your PV/Wind system or simply more storage. I highly recommend including a root cellar as part of your emergency preparedness planning if you can, as it’s a great low-cost, no-energy way to store food and extend the shelf life of fresh produce. [Read more...]
Spring has finally arrived. Traditionally, this was the time when winter stores were running low and new growth was not ready for harvest – the lean times. How can we stretch our gardening season so that even in our cold climate we have access to fresh produce year round?
Learn to eat seasonally. Now is not the time to expect sweet corn in Wisconsin. Look for spring greens – young dandelion and nettles are rich in vitamins and are widely available (note: do not harvest greens that may have been sprayed with chemicals within the last year). Many types of garden vegetables thrive in cooler weather. If you started them earlier in the season, they may be available for harvest now. Otherwise, you can directly sow them in the garden now for harvest in a few weeks. Spinach, mache, lettuce, radishes, potatoes, peas and onions are a few of the crops that prefer cooler temperatures.
Second, plan for storage crops. Some crops, like parsnips and sunchokes, can overwinter directly in the garden. I just dug up my parsnips on Easter and they were wonderfully sweet and delicious. They will hold for a while in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, but for long term storage they must be cooked and frozen. I still have carrots, beets and potatoes in the root cellar. They are starting to sprout, but are still firm and tasty. To extend their storage life, I break/cut off the sprouts as they appear. Shell beans are another “easy to store” crop. I have several jars in the pantry that I use for everything from soup to baked beans. I just cooked up the last of my pumpkins earlier this month and pureed and froze them. This will keep us in pumpkin bread and other goodies until next fall’s harvest.
Four Season Harvest Related Links:
Planning for Storage Crops – How to plan for storage crops in your garden.
The dandelion is a healthful, great tasting weed you can eat – From Backwoods Home magazine, a dandelion primer.
How to Recognize and Eat Stinging Nettles (and what to do if you get stung) – from Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places
Maple Roasted Parsnips from Food Network
2 1/4 pounds parsnips
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 1/2 fluid ounces maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the parsnips and then halve them crosswise, then halve or quarter each piece lengthwise. Place the parsnips into a roasting tin. Pour the butter over the parsnips and mix them well so that the butter covers all of the pieces. Pour the maple syrup over the parsnips and transfer the roasting tin to the oven. Roast the parsnips for 35 minutes, or until they are tender and golden brown. To serve place on a clean serving dish. Makes eight servings.
Note: I also enjoy parsnips roasted simply with sesame oil and a little salt and pepper, especially spring harvested parsnips which are quite sweet already.
Boston Baked Beans from AllRecipes.com
2 cups navy beans
1/2 pound bacon
1 onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons salt 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
Soak beans overnight in cold water. Simmer the beans in the same water until tender, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with bacon and onion. In a saucepan, combine molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water to cover the beans. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake for 3 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until beans are tender. Remove the lid about halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from getting too dry.
Note: I like to use Tiger Eye heirloom beans for this recipe. They give it an extra-rich buttery texture.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes from Pinch My Salt.com
1 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. cake flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 C. buttermilk
1 C. pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 t. vanilla
2 T. dark brown sugar
In a large bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients (whole wheat flour through nutmeg). In a separate bowl, whisk together the last six ingredients (buttermilk through brown sugar).
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and blend together with a wooden spoon until just combined. Lumps are ok, just make sure all the flour on the bottom of the bowl is mixed in. If batter seems too thick to pour, you can gently stir in a little more buttermilk.
Drop pancakes by ladleful onto a medium-hot griddle. Pancakes are ready to turn when the edges start to look a little dry and you can see small bubbles forming on the surface.
Notes: You may substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour if that’s all you have on hand. You may also use only whole wheat flour, just increase whole wheat to 1 1/2 cups and omit cake flour; pancakes will be just a bit heavier. Light brown sugar or white sugar may be substituted for dark brown sugar. If you have it on hand, 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice can be used in place of the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.