salsa fixings, Aug 2011
We ate our last potato last night.
It was a huge Red Norland, a “spooky” potato (according to the eight-year-old) with finger-length sprouts emerging from it; it was added to a soup of leeks, celery, parsley root and cream, blended smooth and served hot with fresh bread and herbed butter.
That last potato got me thinking about staples and seasonality.
After one hangs one’s garden hat on providing a year’s worth of (name your vegetable), there are logical next steps that a gardener usually takes. What else is out there, what else can I put away? Are the items destined to be eaten in the same form as they’re harvested, like the potatoes or apples and winter squash, or do they have to be canned or frozen, dehydrated or picked?
And what about the year-round availability that the grocery store provides? Can I compete with that, ever?
Can I produce FRESH food year-round? And if so, is it stuff we’ll actually eat?
Those last two items have been THIS gardener’s holy grail. As time and our tastes have allowed, I have shifted away from preserving my harvests and have instead moved to Fresh Is Best. The greenhouses have been key to this, of course, but there are other methods out there, like low tunnels or even basement/cold-storage of items like celery, chard, and chickories. These items are dug up, roots and all, and potted and placed in one’s dark and cool storage area. The leaves and stalks, though blanched from lack of light, are eminently edible.
But I am a slacker at heart, so I leave things in the ground year-round and rely on my greenhouses to provide the bounty. Still, many things, like that potato, have an off-season, that period of time between the last wrinkled sprouty stored spud and the digging of the first thin-skinned earth-warmed baby spud. The wait makes you want them more…but the more you work at it, the better you are at shortening that off-season. I expect my first potato harvest in mid-June, in the greenhouses.
Here’s a list of my year-round, same-form items:
- Leeks, onions, scallions, shallots; kale, mustards, collards, chard, chickories, lettuce, celery, beets, carrots; button mushrooms; parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, bay, garlic; eggs, chicken, milk and milk products.
Here is a list of almost-year-round goodies:
- Cabbage, broccoli, parsnips, potatoes, fennel, kohlrabi, celeriac, turnips, rutabaga, daikon radishes, skirret, scorzonera, and
And here’s a partial list of the things that get harvested once, no matter how hard I try:
- Asparagus, artichoke, cardoon, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, okra, peas, beans, corn, cantaloupe/melons, cucumbers, tomatillos, brussels sprouts and cauliflower; honey, maple syrup; apples, blueberries and strawberries.
So when people ask me why I wish for another greenhouse, I think of my lists, especially this middle one. Year-round fennel and kohlrabi would seem to be laudable goals, but year-round potatoes? Score! Gotta just dig more dirt to figure out how I can do it.
It keeps me busy. And the grocery store doesn’t get our money!