Inventory (+ and giveaway)
Last fall I began writing a weekly online column about eating locally for edible San Juan Mountain Magazine. Writing about local food became this wonderful circular thing where the writing inspired the living which inspired the writing, which is how, by first snowfall, my pantry came to look like this:
And my freezer (one of 3) like this:
What started out as a big experiment and a lot of work—chopping, canning, freezing and stashing root vegetables underground like a family of squirrels—has become simply what feeds us.
This is not to say that there hasn’t been gallons of store-bought peanut butter matched to our local jams, or Atlantic-transported olive oil, or that I’m not munching on hippie m’n’m’s right now, but fantastically, between October and late February, we didn’t buy any produce other than limes, lemons, apples and avocados.
And we’ve eaten well.
In fact, preparing meals has been easier. What’s for dinner has become simply: what’s available. If the potatoes start to sprout (which they did), we make roasted spuds, potato soups, potato-chard casseroles. Our quickest, easiest meal is thawing a quart bag of roasted tomato sauce and boiling a pot of pasta, in a strange and gourmet remake of the concept “fast food.”
We started winter with potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squash in cold storage; cabbage, beets, sauerkraut and carrots in the fridge; chard and kale in the greenhouse, and sprouts growing on kitchen counters.
This experiment was never about zealotry or sacrifice; rather, it has been a celebration of the seasonal bounty of our local land, while answering the question: if we aren’t buying Mexico-grown lettuce in December, what might a winter salad look like?
It was a sad day in February when we ate our last Stone Free Farm carrot, and and even sadder day when I chomped into the California-shipped, orange-nothingness masquerading as a carrot at our local food co-op. And up until that moment, the reasons behind our eating local experiment read like a bland pamphlet of locovorism soundbytes: reduce packaging, decrease dependence on foreign oil, keep money in the community, connect our children to food, practice sustainability.
And all that rings loudly true, but not as true as the delicious crispness of a sweet, fresh (or freshly-stored) carrot.
I made a graph of the 2010 harvest season’s inventory, and as we pull another jar of salsa off the shelf, or package of green beans from the freezer, I mark an “x” in the appropriate box. This gives me an idea of how much winter squash we might need next year, or peach salsa, or pesto (because really, peach salsa is a “need” around here).
What I’ve learned:
– There are a lot of ways to enjoy cabbage and beets. And sometimes there’s a lot of cabbage and beets.
– Roasted zucchini holds up really well frozen.
– Finding the right storage conditions takes some finessing. Halfway through the winter I shuttled our sprouting potatoes, like refugees in hiding, from a friend’s basement to another friend’s garage. (Hoping to dig a root cellar this year).
– Homemade yogurt can stay good for over 3 weeks in the fridge.
– Onions need to stay cooler than garlic (we lost 25% of our onions to warm conditions)
– Not only did we save money growing our own and buying local produce in bulk, I went shopping way less.
– Cabbage harvested in October and stored in the fridge lasted perfectly through February.
– Even though our fresh, raw food was limited, there were always sprouts, carrots, sauerkraut, and chard (and for awhile beets and cabbage), which instead of becoming ho-hum, rose to great heights of status.
– The absurdity of shipping a delicate tomato seems suddenly way more outrageous than going 7 months without a fresh tomato.
– Even at 6512 feet where winter lasts almost five months, a large part of ones diet can be local. And delicious.
And now, a giveaway from the pantry:
1) 1 pint chokecherry syrup, our favorite Southwestern treat (read about chokecherries here).
2) Calendula-comfrey salve, the bomb of a balm for healing garden-worn skin or tender baby bottoms.
Leave a comment about what’s local in your pantry, freezer or dreams, to win.
Giveaway closed Thursday night 10pm mountain time, announced Friday morning.