Preservation Station

Last time we wrote about the impending end of tomato season. And here we are today taking down the trellis! Late blight certainly lived up to its reputation, and their season is most decidedly over. But we also froze up a lot of tomatoes to carry us through the winter with delicious sauces cooked on top of the woodstove, and peppers are next on the preservation list! We also wrote up the wonders of kimchi in our most recent CSA newsletter, giving people napa cabbage, chili peppers, garlic, onions, and carrots to get a little batch of their own going as we enter fall (but with quite the warm spell – whew!). Kimchi fits into the broader header of lactofermentation (wild fermentation using a salt brine, essentially), which is our preferred way of not only storing but enhancing foods for the winter months and all year long! Freezing is a breeze, and we love that too. The energy required to can vegetables is a lot – not only personal time and energy but the cost of jars, the energy to heat foods to boiling, cook them down, and keep them hot for the actual canning. Freezing is great because for a lot of things that we freeze (I’m looking at you, tomatoes) – we just through the whole thing in a bag, stuff it with a bunch of others, and shove it in the freezer to pull out at a later date (bonus, the skins slip right off and all the extra water drains away when they thaw, so no cooking down required!). But fermentation is a fun and wonderful thing, creating new nutrients and flavors that can’t be had any other way. Tangy, savory, salty, and crunchy are the main elements of our fermented veggies. Lactobacilli make lactic acid – this acid keeps the whole thing safe from undesirable pathogens like botulism, and also gives pickled veggies their sour tang that we love so much. The salt brine is a necessary first step to give the lactobacilli a headstart (they are very salt tolerant). But they keep us from sweating up a storm over the stovetop in summer; they are doing all the work for you while we go about our day!

{Butternut squash curing in the hoophouse}

We farmers are seasonal creatures, and after all these years of letting the coming and going of frosts, rain, heat, snow, and falling leaves shape our lives, we fall into patterns. Just as we jump into the late winter greenhouse with a furious enthusiasm, shoving seeds into countless thousands of plant tray cells to then explode into acres of delicious veggies, so too we start squirreling away the season’s bounty as the sun starts to fall in the sky. Fortunately, freezing and fermentation aren’t the only easy ways to preserve food. For many of our crops, we benefit from their incredible and innate storage life. Carrots, beets, cabbages, and root veggies are often biennial plants, meaning they flower only every two years. The things we eat are just concentrated energy they have stored for themselves to survive the winter and produce a healthy plant in the spring. Our walk-in cooler keeps things cool all winter long, but when the mercury drops below freezing, we’re looking to keep the veggies from doing the same. They generate a lot of their own heat, allowing us to keep it at the right temperature until the outside temperature gets down to about 15F. Just like those initial expeditions to the poles that brought along refrigerators to keep things from freezing, we’re doing the same in the comfort of our own packshed. Insulation works both ways! We keep eating them all the way into the early parts of spring, and we’re able to keep our diets filled with fresh veggies, frozen at the peak of the harvest or enhanced by the fermentation process, stored cool to keep them fresh, or just hanging out like sweet potatoes, squash, and onions. The weather is warm, but our minds are turning towards the months of cold that lie ahead and we’re making sure to keep ourselves cozy and happily fed all winter long! If you’d like to stock up on these fall treats, just sign up for one of our Holiday Shares! That’s another thing about being farmers. As much as we love to store and enjoy the bounty of the fields for our meals, we love sharing them with others, too!

-Dennis 9/14/17