Table of Contents
1: Soil Care Basics | 2: Increasing Humus | 3: Maximizing Cover Crops | 4: Bare Ground and Tillage | 5: Plant Care | 6: Beneficial Insects | 7: Habitat Plantings | 8: Other Strategies for Insects | 9: Yet More Strategies | 10: Gardening All Four Seasons | 11: Eating Fresh
11. Eat Fresh!
An advantage of gardening is the chance to have fresh produce year round (yes, year round means twelve months)—one does not have to rely on heavily processed foods, or tasteless stuff grown on the other side of the continent, in Chile or Mexico, harvested weeks earlier. In my own household, we freeze a little, dry a little, can nothing—and purchase less produce on the market each year. We love eating fresh. (I define as fresh not only vegetables which have just been harvested, but those which have a natural storage life without additional processing.)
I have already referred above to the many vegetable crops we can grow and harvest green in the fall garden and in the winter cold frame and greenhouse. Fortunately, there are many more that store naturally, without additional processing.
In-ground storage of root vegetables
There is no better storage for the denser-fleshed root vegetables such as rutabagas, fall/winter beets such as Lutz, daikon and other winter radishes, and—oh, yes! especially—carrots! I always grow a small bed of spring carrots; but my major effort with carrots is reserved for the fall/winter crop; and I grow a lot of them. The first few frosts will not effect them at all (though perhaps they get sweeter as a result); but as real ground-freezing temperatures loom, I cover with a straw and/or leaf mulch heavy enough (eight or ten inches deep) to keep the bed from freezing. As long as the carrots do not actually freeze, they remain in perfect condition. When I am ready to transfer a goodly supply to the refrigerator, I just kick aside the mulch and dig away. Such carrots you can only imagine!
Another excellent method for storing root vegetables requiring cold, moist storage is the use of a “clamp.” That is an old-time name for a simple hole in the ground with protection from frost (I usually use bales of straw), and some sort of cover (such as a plastic sheet) to shed rain and keep the hole from filling with water. Conditions inside the clamp are better for storage than a refrigerator, which is dehydrating, and stay cold without freezing—ideal not only for root crops such as daikon, beets, turnips, and rutabagas, but also heads of cabbage and Chinese cabbage.
Root cellar storage
I store potatoes (in bushel baskets) and sweet potatoes (wrapped in newspaper) in our basement. Because of the waste heat from the furnace, conditions are not perfect. All the same, the potatoes store well through the winter, or close to it.
Room temperature storage
Winter squashes keep well in ordinary conditions in the living part of the house. The better-keeping varieties such as butternut can even store through the entire winter if they are especially sound and well grown. Onions, shallots, and garlic also keep well under these conditions—how long will vary a good deal among the different varieties. Good ventilation is essential.
The season’s larder
An essential in the eat-fresh approach is an acceptance of what each season has to offer. Rather than our recipes dictating what we seek out in the supermarket, “what’s on offer” out of the abundant larder of each season is what we are grateful to have on our table. It’s a great way to eat.