On gardening from the outdoor pantry

I have blogged a bit of a theme this week:  how to plan my spring garden according to what I will eat next February.

By looking into shortcuts (and take them where I can), and by doing a tally of this February’s stored goods, I can see what needs to go into the ground this spring.  But I have not mentioned one very important piece of this puzzle:  eating out of the greenhouses, and eating out of the outdoor gardens.

Yes, it’s February on 42N, 86W point of this globe, so indeed the gardens are covered with about a foot of that white frozen stuff.  And the earth remains unfrozen but by no means warm inside the greenhouses.  Still:  I am pulling fresh produce from these two plastic-covered tunnels daily.  Other than my lettuces which I continually blah-blah about, it’s the root and cole crops that shine in there now.  And outdoors I can likewise dig up a rutabaga, carrot, or a leek at my leisure, it just takes me a bit more work.

So here’s a partial list:  at least 30 types of lettuces; sorrel, chard, beet greens; endive/escarole; lacinato and red kale and savoyed cabbage; leeks, onions, scallions, shallots; beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, turnips, rutabagas; celery, par-cel cutting celery, parsley; and some herbs like thyme, sage, savory, and rosemary.  AND:  they’ll all be eaten (excepting the perennials like the herbs, the sorrel and scallions) by the time the peas are ripe.

Can you see how I avoid the grocery store?  Even in winter’s cold depths?

13 responses to “On gardening from the outdoor pantry

  1. Hi El
    Being following your blog for a while now & rave about you on my blog at times… I’m mostly green with envy! I would love to be doing half of what you are! Have a couple of questions for you, if you have time to help… I would love a greenhouse but financially, it’s out of the question right now. However, since we are eco-loco and trying to recycle & reuse everything in sight I’m keeping my eyes open for possible materials to at least make my own cold frame. If we get enought willing volunteers this year it may be a project we do with many hands – raiding the local dump & recycling materilas. Do you have any experience of DIY greenhouses or know of anyone that’s done it?
    Also – the whole ‘canning’ thing… I’d love to do more but again it’s the funds for getting all the equipment I need that’s stopping me (& the confidence, but I’m sure if I had the kit, the confidence would come…!). How much would I need to spend to get all the essentials d’you think & what are those essentials? Originally from the UK I don’t understadn half the US lingo used when folk talk about the process! A ‘can’ in the UK is tin! I have a ‘big’ birthday coming up this summer so may put all the kit I need on my wish list if I can figure out what that is and how to get it!!
    Sorry this is so long!!! Thanks for your patience.

    • Den-

      Canning (and yes, a “can” here is usually metal, too!) costs about $25 for a new canner pot, but you can use any large pot with a lid that will cover your jars by 1.5 inches of water and not boil over. You also need something on the bottom of the pot so the jars don’t touch the bottom of the pot – a towel, silicone pot holder, or even a bunch of the “rings” you put on the jars will work.

      Jars can sometimes be found at resale shops for 25 cents each, though be sure they are real canning jars, not cheap, thin jars made to look like canning jars.

      Rings and lids are about $3.50/dozen, and replacement lids are about $1.25/dozen. I find one dozen rings is all I need, because once jars are sealed, you take the rings off and re-use them. Lids can’t be re-used for canning, though you could re-use them for storing dry goods.

      Check out your county extension agent, community college, and the web…chances are you can find a canning class that will teach you what you need to know!

  2. Hi El – You are an inspiration.

  3. I love it….I’m so glad to have found you in the big wide blogosphere!

  4. Sounds yummy. I’m still a bit behind you in production and use.

  5. Yes, well, you just love your salads, as I recall. Wife and I are not made of such stern stuff – we’ll eat an occasional salad and even enjoy them. But for us the stuff of life are potatoes, squash, onions, pizza, bread, etc. We’ll take them over a salad ‘most any day. Oh, and I can’t forget the nuts: we keep a bowl of walnuts, almonds, and hazelnut for snacking.

  6. I think Den would be better served with a pressure canner, because you can can anything in a pressure canner, but you can’t can anything in a water bath canner, which is what you described- only high acid stuff (acidic tomatoes, pickled stuff) and high sugared stuff like jam, jellies and preserves. I did a LOT of shopping around and found the best deal and value in a 21.5 quart All American Pressure Canner on Amazon for a couple of hundred dollars and zero shipping.

    I do have a water bath canner, but never use it anymore- hubby brews his beer in it now, so it’s not completely wasted. But I really think saving up and going with a pressure canner is the way to go, economy-wise. My sister-in-law gets with a buddy every year and cans a tuna they buy off the dock, and it’s out of this world better than regular canned tuna. But they couldn’t do it without the pressure canner.

    Thanks for the list of cold crop stuff- now I know what to plant for next winter. If I could just figure out when to plant it, I’d be in good shape.

  7. Den – A small greenhouse can be really affordable, and can certainly pay for itself over one winter –


    And Cold frames are so easily made out of recycled materials that every gardener should have one –


    You can grow almost as well in a cold frame as in a greenhouse, and BTW this is the Perfect time to build one. You could Easily be harvesting salads by tax day if you do.

  8. I have been a big fan of your garden blog for a long time. I love how you inspire. I would love to add you to my new blog ‘Gardens that inspire’…. do you mind?

    Stop by sometime!

  9. Thanks folks for all your helpful comments & advice. I really appreciate you taking the time. One of the difficulties is the country we live in. Montenegro is a difficult place to source materials or get stuff sent to. It’s not part of Europe so ‘normal’ rules don’t apply and importing stuff is beyond difficult. Add to that we can only speak the local language enough to get by in shops & cafes not to have grown up conversations about recycling, organic gardening, pressure canning etc. It’s also an extraordinarily strange climate – mad winds, phenomenally wet and at the same time unseasonally warm often too… Desperately seeking bloggers closer to home…

  10. The root crops have me thinking about a greenhouse for next winter. The lettuces do not inspire such a plan.

  11. Pingback: Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener » On the Value of a Hoophouse

  12. Hi Den: hope we helped you just a little bit! Yeah, my basic lesson is “bite off more each year.” Seems to work and I haven’t tipped over into “crazy” yet (though I suppose that is coming…) Hopefully you will stumble across other Mediterranean garden bloggers: goodness they’re sure to be out there. And, keep your eyes out for a local gardening man or woman who might take you under their wing.

    Thanks, Emily, for doing my work for me 😉 !! I do agree having jars of tomato sauce in winter sure brings a little bit of sunshine in to these dark nights of ours. For some people, canning just might not be realistic, but simply growing and freezing might. Any steps down this path are good ones, I think.

    Aw, Angie, thanks.

    Ditto, Milkweed! I am still envious of your fridge and cookstove…

    Ah, Stef, remember it’s no race. Or if it is, I did tell Den I am a step or two away from “crazy,” so…there you go 😀

    Dennis, can I tempt you with a salad pizza??? Seriously. Cook the dough as you would normally, then, at the last 3 minutes or so, take it out and spread some well-dressed spring mix or what have you: balsamic vinaigrette is my favorite, with a LOT more dressing than you normally would. A couple minutes of cooking and voila. But I do agree with you: though I am a Bread fan myself, this greenery however is so much better than anything else I could buy.

    Paula, indeed, if you’re going to do it, the pressure canner is the way to go. However, I guess blowing the money on the other pot is the way most people step up to the whole canning thing; perhaps this shouldn’t be avoided, as sometimes confidence is lacking. But I envy your sis’s ability to go down to the dock and buy some fish to can! (I am no fan of tuna but salmon would be quite nice…a girl can dream.) But yeah, timing I suppose is everything. Fortunately the greenhouse forgives a lot, so, unlike regular gardening, the windows are quite large for planting things. They’ll just be bigger or smaller when they’re growing in there. And sometimes smaller is lots better b/c bigger lettuces and stuff get shocked when it gets super-cold. Okay TMI but…experiment!

    David, thanks for all the links and encouragement!! It’s true I won’t be going over coldframes etc. as I’m pretty well satisfied with my set-up but I am quite glad others are willing to contribute their knowledge. Hopefully this helps more than just Den.

    Bren, aw, shucks. Sure, go ahead and link away….

    Pamela, really, even MY lettuces? But indeed the root crops can be space hogs in late summer when I plant them, a thing I ignore now it’s winter and I adore pulling them.

    Thanks, Sylvie, for confirming!!

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