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Planning for plenty

February 4, 2010

Filling the pantry and root cellar is easier if you plan for abundance.  My general rule of thumb is to plan for 52 units of whatever I am putting up.  And for temperamental crops that I will can, I plan for two years of storage.  I know it seems silly to have so much food on hand, but if I can this food in jars it will keep a longgggggg time.  We can easily go several years here without apples or pears.  So when we have a plentiful crop, I make as much applesauce as possible.  Of course, we eat fresh apples from the tree and cold storage as much as we can.  My 52 week x 2 plan works on the assumption that we will eat applesauce or pesto once a week.  Where my stockpile can grow a little is, all those weeks I just make fresh applesauce or pesto from the garden.  The  pantry police will come for me if they ever find out that I have eaten 10-year-old canned applesauce and it didn’t really differ from sauce that was 6 months old.  I try to rotate my stock better than that, but…just sayin.’

fruit room

So why on earth am I talking about canning now?  Because I work backwards when planning my planting.  I don’t plant a ton of stuff and then wonder what I am going to do with it all – I plan for how much I want to preserve or store.  By midwinter, the fruit room shelves are starting to have empty jars, signifying I really did use up some of that planned abundance.  And it is time to order seeds and think about starting them.  We use a lots of tomato products – salsa; tomato sauce; V-8 juice;  and whole tomatoes.  That takes a lot of tomatoes!  Whole canned tomatoes are one thing, but once you start cooking them down to sauces, it can be a little disheartening to see a 20# box of tomatoes disappear into just a few jars of sauce.  And that doesn’t even count the potential crop failure dilemma.  I always have an overlap of preserved goods, and I am OK with that.  I would rather have too much than the alternative.  And I find if I have a plentiful pantry I am more apt to use that.  Home-canned V-8 juice is a great companion with broth for a stew base.  And no, I won’t address the raw, fresh food issue any more than to say, I have to come down in the middle of the road.  I just recently read an article about carrots – that Vitamin A packed food almost everyone loves.  Come to find out, we only can glean about 3% of the carrots’ beta-carotene if we eat them raw, if we cook the carrots, we can garner 39%!  That being said, I eat a lot of raw carrots, and I like them cooked too.  Steamed and served with a dollop of grass-fed butter, or roasted with olive oil, yum  But pressure cook them at high temperatures – I won’t go there.  .

Roots for kitchen 2/1/10

Think of your pantry as your total food stores, not just a cupboard or room in the corner somewhere.  I can, freeze, and ferment some things, dry storage and root cellaring come into play too.  But being lazy by nature, if I can grow something and not do too much to it in the way of storage or preserving.  I take the easy route.  Our climate allows for storing some hardy root crops in the ground until spring.  Not always –  I did lose some of my crops this year in December, but that is again where my Plenty Plan comes into play.  I don’t put all my eggs in one basket, if I did, I would not be eating any carrots at all now.  Two rows froze out in one garden, two rows survived in the other.  Do I have less than I planned for?  Yes.  But, I still have enough.  And that brings the question of waste into play, Josh has a good post here about that very thing.  Vegetable matter composting in the soil is giving back part of what it took in the first place.

Sweet Meat winter squash

Another no-fuss vegetable we depend on is winter squash.  Some varieties keep until May after proper curing.  A warm cure, and then cool, and dry storage, like an unheated bedroom is perfect for squash.  I just use these as needed.  No reason whatsoever to cook these or preserve them in any way until I need to actually cook them for a meal or pie.  Their sweetness improves with storage up to the 6 month after curing, and then they start to lose quality.  The perfect frugal food, no fancy storage and no energy expended to preserve.  I don’t follow my 52 unit rule with these.  I strive for 300#’s or so, each squash weighs about 10 – 12 pounds, so about 30 squash… .  If you’re not a squash lover that would be a little much – I eat squash for breakfast, so I make sure I have enough to last.

Sweet Meat winter squash

Sweet Meat Winter squash

This post is obviously not an airtight plan for a garden, but it gives you a good idea, just how much food you might need if you really are depending on stocking your pantry from your garden.  The best way to save a lot of work when canning and preserving is to not spend much time growing and putting up things your family will not eat.   Concentrate on what you really will cook and eat and plant those vegetables in quantity.  If good tomatoes are inexpensive in your area, it may pay to buy tomatoes and allot your garden space to other vegetables that are not available.  Variety selection is key too, that romantic sounding heirloom tomato with the great taste may only give you 10 ripe tomatoes in a season, whereas a newer open-pollinated variety may give you 50 pounds to preserve.  Both take up the same amount of space, fertilizer, water, and time.  The only difference will be the yield.  If preserving is your goal, make sure the word productive is part of the variety description.  I plant two hybrid SunSugar cherry tomatoes each summer, they are crack resistant, we eat them like crazy until we are sick of the glut – then I strip the plants and add them to the last sauce.  They are very productive, feeding us all summer and into the winter with their tasty sauce.  Do I need them? No.  But I want them, and I will buy the seeds as long as they are offered somewhere.  But I will warn you, they are a Seminis variety, and I occasionally eat white sugar too and cheap chocolate.

Probably the best advice I can offer is not to listen to me or grow what I grow, but to find out what growers in your area have had success with.  Some vegetables and fruits  require certain conditions – for instance growing peaches and nectarines here is not a no-spray proposition, too much rain.  But 40 miles in either direction are abundant stone fruit orchards.  It makes more sense for me to buy those fruits, than it does to try to grow them here.  And if I look around at old orchards, there are no trees of that sort nearby.  But also don’t be afraid to experiment either – kiwi wasn’t planted here until recently, and it thrives.  So be adventurous and cautious if that is possible, and remember, Next Year brings a new gardening and preserving season!

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday feature.  Be a food renegade and peruse the posts there.  Great recipes and health news too!

49 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2010 4:04 am

    Good post! I grow and use a lot of winter squash too. It keeps all winter in my cold cellar. We LOVE squash/pumpkin pies. I have not started canning as I have a big freezer that has sufficed so far, but I am buying a canner this year. I am slowly building a study shelved pantry area for the canned produce.

    I like that you store the empty jars in the bare spaces. Good idea!

    We have several apple trees but, since they need to be sprayed here, we don’t use them. They are full of worms and scabby, unfortunately. There are many apple orchards nearby where we can buy them cheaply in the fall. I plan to can a lot of applesauce and pesto this year.

    • February 5, 2010 6:08 am

      Sheryl, you won’t regret your canner, I use it for vegetables and fruits too, rarely do I use a water bath. A pressure canner is faster, and uses less water. The down side is the high temperature the foods are cooked at, so I don’t can everything in sight. The downside I see with my freezer is the continued cost of electricity to store the food, and what freezing does to some foods when they are frozen. However, berries out of the freezer are a winter treat and a taste of summer.

      Happy canning!

  2. February 5, 2010 5:30 am

    Great post. I’m still working on getting my production up to where it needs to be. I do make list of how much of each thing we typically use in a year, so that I have a ballpark figure. It is nice that you can overwinter so much in the ground there, it isn’t possible with too many items here in the NE.

    • February 5, 2010 6:00 am

      The Mom, it is nice to not have to harvest all the root crops and pack them in a root cellar when we are so busy harvesting the things that can’t survive outside. I have to take advantage of my climate 🙂

  3. February 5, 2010 6:31 am

    You speak of warm curing squash and then storing them for 6 months. Do you have a post on warm curring? I love the idea that squash can be stored for 6 months. Will this work with all varieties?

  4. omelay permalink
    February 5, 2010 6:53 am

    When I have empty jars in the winter, I fill them with pressure canned beans and chickpeas. With our growing family we use more jars each year, more food. When I can dried beans (bought organic from the bulk supplier) I can 25 pounds at a time or so. It fills those jars and heats the house. Plus, I aim always to have all the beans I need for the spring, summer & fall already canned before it gets too hot.

    We grow butternuts because they are completely immune to the effects of the vine borer (solid stemmed). I grow pumpkins, too, every year with varied success- one year I canned 64 quarts of pumpkin. Last year I got 5. pumpkins, total, lol. It was a hard year!

    We still have 20 or 30 butternuts. They are prized around here.

    With regard to fresh food- we have a small greenhouse where we grow chard, fresh herbs and salad greens. It has kept us in fresh eating most of the winter. Beyond it we have sweet potatoes and the squash, but the rest is canned.


    • February 5, 2010 8:49 pm

      Tabitha, that makes me miss my greenhouse 😦 I wish I could get butternuts to ripen here – they are delicious.

      Your bean canning schedule sounds divine, and makes me glad I am only gardening and canning for 3!

  5. localnourishment permalink
    February 5, 2010 6:57 am

    I plan backward also. When my seed catalogs come in, I plan food storage (as if I had room) and garden space (as if I had a garden) based on our consumption levels. I prioritize plants for canning first, since I know fresh-for-eating will be available at the Farmer’s Market in season. Then I sigh, put away all the plans and prepare my real order for my 12-container patio garden.

    I have the system worked out, now I just need the land. 😀

  6. February 5, 2010 8:11 am

    One more time you bring to the adoring masses common sense and a pathway for others to follow.

    Very good post, dear Friend.


  7. February 5, 2010 9:52 am

    Great post and wonderful pictures, as always! I never tire of seeing a pantry with home-canned goods.

    • February 5, 2010 8:51 pm

      Janice, thank you – I agree, I love pictures of home canned goods with shelves bursting or the displays at the fairs. Splendid!

  8. February 5, 2010 10:03 am

    Fabulous post and very timely for me. We were just planning our garden the other day. Thank you for all the information. I just found your blog this morning and now I must read for a while. 😉

    It’s nice to “meet” a neighbor–
    Judy in SW WA

    • February 5, 2010 8:52 pm

      Judy D, Hi Neighbor, our only view is of SW Washington! Soon it will be gardening time, I can’t wait.

  9. February 5, 2010 12:50 pm

    A stellar post, as usual. =) You mentioned eating squash for breakfast – please share!

    • February 5, 2010 8:54 pm

      Annette, thanks, and I am afraid my squash for breakfast is a little boring. I just heat up leftovers, of course, with more butter. It is so sweet it doesn’t need any thing but a fork!

  10. February 5, 2010 2:05 pm

    Great post…………..which reminds me to remind my apples to produce this year…it’s about time cause I NEED them this year…I haven’t had a crop in four years and I’ve only got four jars of jelly left 😦

    • February 5, 2010 8:55 pm

      Linda, sounds like our prunes – sometimes we have went 5 years without much more than a mouthful! I think we are duefor no apples – we have had two stupendous years.

  11. February 5, 2010 2:38 pm

    I’ve given you an award because your blog brightens my day! Come on over to check it out 🙂

  12. peacefulacres permalink
    February 5, 2010 5:02 pm

    I just got my last package of seeds today….I just love holding them. I’m trying to set up a spread sheet….Just maybe that will help me get organized and keep notes on how my garden grows! I finally found January King Cabbage which you have plugged and I cannot wait to try!!! Now to find room for EVERYTHING!

    • February 5, 2010 8:57 pm

      Diane, it’s fun isn’t it, just thinking of all that potential you have in your hands! Good luck with your spreadsheet 🙂

  13. February 5, 2010 6:57 pm

    I’ve been enjoying your blog and thanks for all the beautiful photos. I grew a lot of winter squash this year (including sweet meat. I eat it for breakfast too (a kind of steamed pudding with oats, eggs, walnuts, and cooked squash). I am always looking for new ways to cook (and eat squash. Do you have any recipes? How do you eat it for breakfast. Todays post was perfect … beginning with the end in mind. …Thinking about what we like to eat, what we are able to preserve (and how) and how much, how often. Thank you!

    • February 5, 2010 9:06 pm

      KC, I really like squash, so most of it gets eaten plain (around here plain means with butter) or in pie. I usually cook it a few days ahead by cutting the squash in half, then quarters and steaming it. Then I have cooked squash on hand to reheat as needed. Our dogs love the cooked squash skin, so it is a part of their diet too.

      Sorry, nothing fancy here with the squash… 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

  14. February 5, 2010 8:17 pm

    Great post as always! I just planned the 2010/11 garden after first carefully checking what was left in the pantry. I have room for 4 more trees and I was thinking almond & peaches. I know they will grow here, just curious what the spray was for that you mentioned? Trying to squeeze as many things onto my 1/3 of the 1/4 acre as possible. I think we are shored up for veggies and fruits with the exception of apricots & peaches but I *could* always buy those. That just isn’t my goal.

    Have you ever tried sea berries? I planted a yuzu and an indoor meyer lemon tree but am looking for more vitamin C that will grow outside here in our maritime climate. I planted arctic kiwi and am putting in a grape vine but something tangy in the winter would be divine.

  15. February 5, 2010 9:20 pm

    SE, peach leaf curl is the biggest problem. Nectarines, almonds and apricots are also susceptible. Conventional treatment is several timed fungicide applications. There are some sprays approved for organic applications, and also some varieties are more resistant. I’m on the western slope of the Cascades, so our rainfall is twice that of Portland. Sauvie Island just west of Portland has quite a few peach orchards,(most likely not organic though) and they have crops so heavy that the branches break if not supported! Here the trees would be lucky to survive more than several seasons. So if you’re rainfall is similar to Portland, you might be OK with resistant varieties.

    I have been curious too about the sea berries, there is a brewery not too far from here that has some producing ones in their gardens and they look prolific, and very healthy. The kiwi will produce huge amounts of fruit once you get it established. Mine is amazing, although I have to try to find a way to use all the fruit 🙂

  16. February 5, 2010 11:41 pm

    What a great post, as usual! This post combined with the recent one about gardens transitioning over time to provide what we use the most…excellent! I also agree with you about the raw issue…we’ve been trying to eat much more raw, but this has meant basically we’ve had to change to eating vegetables we weren’t eating enough of anyway, cooked, raw, or otherwise. The raw portion we’re trying to see where the percentage will practically fall, and for the long term, that will have to do with preference and practicality since it’s not sustainable for us to keep getting it all from the store. So many of our foods we can grow down here HAVE to be cooked…they are indigestible raw, or at least the nutrition is diminished with many of them (such as collards) if not cooked first. That said, we can’t wait till the fresh foods we love both raw and cooked are no farther than our garden. This post was helpful…seeing how you plan for some good years and some unproductive ones for different foods you rely on the most. We love tomatoes, fruit, squashes, onions and berries so much, and despite what anyone says about canning killing some of the nutrition, it’s the most delicious way for us down here to preserve the harvest without having to maintain freezers for everything. Plus, there’s just something about the taste of home canned tomatoes…and green beans…and blackeye peas…and chowchow…
    Now I’m hungry again 🙂

    • February 10, 2010 3:25 pm

      Robbyn, I like some raw, but sometimes cooking is just what a girl (or guy) has to do. I’m sure it is a bleck moment for some, but my comfort food is canned green beans. A little onion, butter, and tossed with sugar. I am sure there isn’t much nutritional value left, but it sure takes me back to my gardening mentor’s dinner table. And truth be told, they grew their own food, canned some, froze some and ate meat and butter everyday of their lives. And they lived to their late 80’s. And they weren’t decrepit for the last years either.

      You know sometimes I am jealous of your climate – but I’m too old to change locations now. Trace wonders how Kaleb can stand it – he was too hot yesterday at 60F. Big Weenie 🙂

  17. omelay permalink
    February 6, 2010 7:01 am

    i just wanted to mention a book i leafed through recently and want to read. it is called Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human. I can’t wait to read it.

  18. February 6, 2010 11:41 am

    With a baby in the house for the 08 garden season, I made sure to can 52 quarts of applesauce, which barely lasted until March/April. for the 09 garden season I canned nearly 75 quarts of applesauce and I think we’ve eaten less than 10 quarts so far. Go figure! Like you say, I’d rather have plenty than not enough, so I’m not complaining. It’ll get eaten eventually.

    I know from my previous garden experiences, corn is hard for me to grow.. One year it did great, but racoons beat me to it; the other years did poorly, even after trying different things and different locations. I can get corn pretty cheap around here– so I’ll just buy corn and use that space for expanding my potatoes instead.

    Great post! and btw, I know you’re not THAT old!! I didn’t mean it like that! 🙂 It’s nice to be able to ask questions of someone who has been doing this for a long time and I appreciate your willingness to share your experiences. Thanks!

    • February 10, 2010 3:31 pm

      Jenny, that is how it goes here too – I can see almost no jam canning in my future. I still have some from two years ago. Corn is another one, I am finding it hard to find uses for what I did freeze. So far it has went into the bean pot each week and sometimes in a fritatta, otherwise it is kind of sitting there.

      BTW, I suppose technically I could be your mother if I had gotten started sooner 😉
      I was just teasing you 🙂

  19. February 6, 2010 7:24 pm

    Good planning guidelines. My needs are smaller, and my needs are something the size of one or two butternut squash a week (rather than a sweet meat!) but the thinking process I’ve been going through is the same.

    Apples are plentiful here even though I need to buy them for another year or two – I planned for applesauce and canned apples but never did it. I’m still making one or two quarts of cooked apples (usually with a handful of local cranberries added, yum!) every week and looks like they’ll hold up fine in storage ’till they’re gone… looks like mid March. I bought and froze 14 gallons of cider – next year I’ll do 20. I also came in way short on honey. With colds and bronchitis I used way more than I did while living in California, and it’s nearly gone.

    Most of all I miss tomato sauces, then peeled frozen red peppers, and then pesto. Those are all must-haves for next winter, whether I manage to grow them myself or must buy them at the farmers market.

    Next year I’ll can.

    • February 10, 2010 3:33 pm

      Hayden, you got a late start anyway, next year will be different, you know your way around a little better and can get down to brass tacks come preserving season.

      I saw some nettles today, and I’m thinking I will make some nettle pesto to fight off the winter doldrums and save my cilantro pesto stash a little longer!

  20. February 6, 2010 10:19 pm

    Hey MOH…

    You’re definitely an inspiration. I live on a little piece of dirt in the middle of the midwest. The growing season is long and the crops are usually abundant. OI garden organically and I can and freeze and dry foods. I am always looking for new ideas and you have a lot.

    I lived in your neck of the woods about 15 years ago, after living in North Northern California (lol-an hour from the Oregon border) for nearly 20. I have come back home, full circle now. I have chickens and a pond with fish and lots of time on my hands to do whatever I want.

    It’s the good life.

    LOve your down to earth blog. I’ll be back.

    • February 10, 2010 3:34 pm

      Hi Annie, boy you have come full circle! Sounds like you’re all settled in now.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  21. February 7, 2010 8:03 am

    Do you use a greenhouse or cold frames? for all those canned tomatoes and peppers? and if so I”d be curious to know what kind. What zone are you guys in? Thanks, love the blog it’s both fun and helpful

    • February 7, 2010 11:34 am

      Lorena, we do have to use a greenhouse or high tunnel for tomatoes or peppers. USDA zone maps list us in zone 8b, although 7 borderline 6 is closer to our actual growing conditions. Our maritime climate is moderated by the Pacific, and while we have a long growing season, we do not have the heat units to ripen warm weather crops easily or consistently. No warm summer nights here.

      As for the greenhouse – last winters snow 08-09 dashed that proposition. And in this economy we have not wanted to spend the money for the replacement. So this summer will be a challenge – I guess.

  22. February 8, 2010 8:23 am

    My dad and mom stored their huge squash in an old building that had hay. I sure hated squash by winters end. I think my mom was tired of cooking, so didn’t put much effort into it other than throwing it in the oven. Because of this I tend to only buy and bake the little butternuts and an occasional acorn because my husband likes those best.

    • February 10, 2010 3:35 pm

      Pamela, well the husband must be happy – it seems to work a lot better around here too, when everyone is well fed and content.

  23. February 8, 2010 11:38 am

    Thanks for a great post. I’m already starting my spring garden (this is when we have to start in Texas, to get crops rolling before the brutal heat of summer) and am looking towards more things that can store at ambient temp – like squashes, etc. And trying to figure out how many tomato plants I need to make a years worth of tomatoes. And trying to allow for possible late season freezes, hail storms, or other crop-killers. 🙂

    • February 10, 2010 6:41 pm

      AccidentalHuswife, that is amazing that you need to start in February. But I guess, since it gets scorching hot there. I plant the bulk of my garden near Memorial Day, then pray it doesn’t rain all June, but sometimes it does. 🙂

  24. February 10, 2010 9:41 am

    Again you are a wealth of Knowledge…..

    I have two questions, first, Plastic….I have been thinking about this for awhile now and you have educated me over the edge…I will officially work on going plastic free….I will start with left over containers….and move to all things frozen….
    What about plastic bowls, do they cause problems, like to eat out of or serve say salad for example…..Where do you get those wonderful square ones for your butter

    Speaking of butter that leads me to my next question…I do make my own butter from our Dexter’s milk….and its wonderful fresh…but it gets sour fast, and I really do not like sour butter…I have tried freezing it but after a few days out of the freezer it goes sour fast…..I use stainless steal buckets that are clean and sterile, I strain it using filters…..I do not pasteurize it….I like it raw….

    I have a family of Seven, five teenagers and a hubby….so we eat a lot of butter…I get about a gallon and a half of milk a day and wait 3 days to save up cream…I spoon the cream into a glass jar I keep in the freezer, when its full I thaw it and make butter…rinse add salt….store…. any suggestions?

  25. February 10, 2010 7:17 pm

    blincoefarm, I think the worst part of the plastic is the long term leaching, especially acidic foods. But for something like a salad, I can’t see throwing out a good bowl. I try not to be too fanatical, just changing the things I can, and trying not to worry about the rest. Plastic can’t be avoided – and can be very useful.

    Ball still makes a wide mouth pint like that, in their Platinum line. They are nice with the wide mouth for cleaning the butter out, but the taller tapered pints work good too. And of course you can always scout out garage and estate sales for them too.

    What has made the most difference in my butter making is not skimming the cream until I have enough to make a batch of butter. Either a 1/2 gallon or 1 gallon depending on how much milk I get. Each time a jar is opened more bacteria can get in, increasing chances for contamination. My butter doesn’t keep indefinitely after freezing either, and if it is warm I keep it refrigerated. But this time of year I can keep it on the counter with no problem.

    Sometimes it only takes a little bit of buttermilk left in to spoil the batch, I rinse and work until the water is clear – then add salt and keep working until all the water is worked out. A good paddle that fits my butter bowl works the best.

    I am not over zealous in my cleaning either, I wash every thing with hot soapy water and rinse until I can’t detect any soap smell. Sometimes the sanitizers, or soaps can leave a residue that could cause spoilage too. Just some ideas – I’ve been there – I hate rancid butter. I do think you can salvage it though by making ghee, which will keep without any refrigeration.

    Hope this helps 🙂


  1. I will garden. I WILL! « Local Nourishment
  2. Fight Back Friday February 5th | Food Renegade

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