Managing the Stores
he gardening “year” starts here in late fall when I plant garlic. But really there is no stopping and starting point in the gardening/pantry year, there is just continuity and flow of food and the work of food. We can only plan so much if we are growing our own food, I have no idea what the apple year will bring. We may skip a year. Or we may have an abundance. In an abundant year I process a lot of applesauce and it tides us over during the lean tree fruit years.
Last fall was a bumper crop year. I still have boxes of apples that have stored all winter on the porch. We have eaten apples til we are blue in the face. Every week I go through the boxes of apples, you know, the one bad apple thing. With a bucket nearby, I sort and inspect and look for any signs of spoilage, the bucket goes to the barn for Jane. Jane’s grateful for a taste treat and I’m grateful for the symbiosis of the apple and the house cow.
In the scheme of keeping apples, with heritage varieties anyway, King is king here in the Pacific Northwet, followed by Northern Spy and Grimes Golden. Every year it seems there is a flurry of spoilage activity in the boxes, and then by Christmas, all the weak apples have been weeded out and the pace of bad keepers slows. This particular box had one apple with a soft spot, but the rest of the blemishes were merely cosmetic. Sorry Jane, this looks like pie making material to me!
At a certain point Jane will get the rest, as they dry and shrivel and we tire of apple pie. None of us care for dried apples, so I learned long ago not to spend time preserving things that we never eat. Applesauce is more likely to disappear from the pantry here, so that is what I spend my energy processing in the fall.
As we are eating our way through the “great wall” of food on the shelves and in the freezers, it’s the perfect time for a reality check. As in, “why on earth did I freeze all that kale, chard and spinach?’ We have been eating fresh greens gleaned from the garden all winter. Or why didn’t I freeze and dry more Italian prunes. I.AM.ALMOST.OUT. Cilantro pesto is holding up, as is the roasted tomato salsa, but I’m totally out of hot chile sauce:( So I will plant more hot peppers and make more hot chili sauce this year and I will worry over the prune trees from bloom to ripening fruit. Such is the gardening life.
A lot of these foodstuffs are just about done, or past their prime and going to make eggs in the case of frozen greens, or milk in the case of Jane. But the potatoes get a second wind that is a little more glamorous than livestock fodder. I never can make the St Patrick’s Day “deadline” for planting potatoes since my seed potatoes won’t arrive until mid-April, but I did grab a few out of the eating box to chit, and they are about ready to go. Not the prettiest, but they will do fine in a corner of greenhouse and bridge the gap a bit between the dregs of last year’s harvest and the new main crop.
So that’s the state of my pantry. What do you wish you had more of this time of year? Or less of?