The End of the Harvest
As I’ve been savoring all the beauty of the leaves on the trees before they are completely gone, I’m noticing our neighborhood squirrels diligently working to prepare for the winter. Gone are their lazy days of foraging and playing on our deck and chasing each other jumping from tree to tree. Now they are gathering their final harvest. They are packing their nuts underground to help them survive through the cold weather. I too have been gathering and anticipating the winter, a time when few local produce are available and even fewer options for my daughter who isn’t fond of all the leafy greens.
For the past 3 to 4 years, I have committed myself to learning when certain in-season produce is available. I’m a bit embarrassed that it took me this long to learn when fruits and veggies became available locally.
I was inspired to live this way, after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” The first purchase after diving in to this adventure was a deep freezer. It has given me the ability to store up meals for a later day, be able to purchase bulk quantities of meat and seafood, and of course freeze seasonal produce to use throughout the season. Once the harvest is over (and it almost is!), we thrive off my gatherings. This is when my food budget is at an all time low.
When I share to others that I try to mostly prepare meals based on in what’s “in season” and available to purchase locally and organic (learn about the Purple Porch Co-op where I shop!), many think that this means that I invest a lot of time and money into the process. I’m left with the impression that people would do this, if they could “afford” it.
My response is simply that it is true that there is more upfront preparation and planning. In the spring, we invested in a large quantity of strawberries to make strawberry jam. It was honestly a lot of effort and I did get stressed out in the middle of it (long story but actually quite humorous to share someday). I did this with the 2 older kids (ages 5 & 3) and they were involved from the picking, washing, cutting, mashing, stirring to the taste testing. I did all the actual canning processing but they watched how it was done.
We made about 18 pints of jam that day. I am HOPING it will last all the way until next spring when the strawberries are back in season. Now that is done, we have it easy. When our jar is empty, we walk to the basement and get a new jar. No need to run to the store or fit it into our food budget. I know all the few ingredients in it and was able to sweeten it to my satisfaction.
If I didn’t plan on this in the spring, we would have missed out on processing the best quality, local & organic strawberries. We would have missed out on the experience we had together as we gathered and processed.
In the next few months of cold weather, I look forward to bringing out our spring asparagus, summer corn, fall squashes, and more. The green smoothies are going to taste fantastic with our blueberries, strawberries, and peaches waiting to be used in our deep freezer.
Everything is already washed, cut, and ready to be put in a meal. I believe all this effort will be worthwhile for us. It will be healthier and tastier because it was picked at it’s peak ripeness, and won’t add to our food budget in the winter.