Saturday, August 22, 2009

Preserving the bounty...

You might be surprised to hear me say this, but I'll be the first to admit - canning, pickling, freezing, dehydrating - all the many ways we can work to preserve the bounty of our local seasonal food...well it's a major pain. All the jars kicking around the house for months on end, baskets of rims, then all the prep work - cutting, slicing, snapping - followed by a rush of packing hot jars and then waiting, waiting, waiting for the water to boil and the allotted hot water bath/pressure canner time. And finally, the nerve-racking will my jars "ping?" Please, please let my jars ping!!!!
And since my daytimer has me pretty well scheduled during all daylight hours in the fields, food preservation for this farmer usually entails a very, very late night.
BUT...Is there are more satisfying feeling than looking at a counter of jars full of healthy, chemical-free food, food that was grown in your region supporting your local farmers keeping your favorite open lands in production???? Especially come December and January and February when the abundance of summer - the tomatoes, the beans, the beets - are long gone?
If you haven't ever tried preserving your food, its not as hard as it appears, and especially as you find great recipes and perfect your techniques, the products you end up with are well, really, really good. Just takes a little time and planning. And it is something that is much more fun with some friends and family. Get a good book - or google - here is one of my favorite sites for quick and easy info on canning, pickling, freezing and the many ways to put food up -
So this Sunday I plan to preserve some of the bounty. Especially since the batch of pickled Dilly Beans we did do this week is already about 1/4 gone! My husband has been eating about a pint of them a day! I do admit, they are addictive, kinda like potato chips only beany!
If you would like to stop by the market and put up some food for your family and friends, well we have lots of choices. And, on that note, we are offering a special promotion on all the veggies you need to make your own batch of dilly beans:
* FOR JUST $12 - 5 lbs of fresh beans (choose any of our 4+ varieties of beans, they are all great pickled!), one bunch of dill and 2 heads of garlic. We will also include a recipe, but basically, that's enough beans, dill and garlic for at least 8 pints. A bargain!

And what else of the summer bounty will be at market today, well, quite a bounty. Here is the brief (hah!) summary:

From Willowood Farm
- Potatoes - 7 flavors today plus baby new potato bags!
- Garlic - Probably 8 flavors today?
- Head Lettuce - loads of beautiful head lettuce!
- Kohlrabi - giant tender heads! Great raw in coleslaw, baked...
- Chard
- Kale
- Cabbage - three beautiful kinds! Great for coleslaw, sauerkrat (another fun and yummy home project!)
- Peas
- Chickpeas (probably the last week they'll be available in fresh form)
- Summer Squash - loads of perfect summer squash!
- Beans, beans, beans - We have our favorite Dragon Langeries and gorgeous Golden Rocky yellow wax beans....
- Gourmet mixed Italian Onions

From our friends at Prairie Bottom
- Lots more beans! Golden Bacau wax bean, Green Romas, French Filets
- Beet Bottoms! Great for canning
- More onions
- More taters
- Spinach
- Leeks
- Dill bunches
- Carrot Bunches
- Fava Beans
- Basil

And at Bayview Market only we will have a selection from Mikey at Whidbey Green Goods of Sungold tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, basil and yes, even more beans....

We hope to see you there!

Happy preserving!
Farmer Georgie
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie


  1. (hangs head in shame)
    We use the freezer:(
    I am a ridiculously picky eater. It's genetic. Drives my husband crazy.

    I have a question. I made the error of planting ornamental gourds in my flower garden, without much of a plan as to harvest, last year. Some of the seeds overwintered, and they've volunteered to grow again. Just how inedible are they?

    Our back 40 vegetable farmer planted pumpkins last year, but, (hangs head again) I don't like pumpkin. I LOVE squashes, just not pumpkins. Well, I don't like vegetable marrow (summer squash) or egg-plant either. Picky, picky;(

    I have tomatoes that overwinter too, as seeds.
    I thought you might be interested. I love self-seeders that over-winter:)
    Three years in a row, now, for cherry and beefie tomatoes. Healthy, but very late, with this incredibly wet weather we've had.

    Just how inedible are the inedible gourds? Do they ever get more edible? Ever? I know they are for carving bird-houses/decorations etc. But wouldn't they have started out edible?
    Silly question, eh?

    Kudos to your harvests, and thank you from someone who eats.


    I should have planted Hubbards! Nah, they wouldn't have done anything. Too cold, too wet.

    Grumbling Canadian out.

  2. Hey GoLightly -
    Don't feel any need to hang head in shame! We all have our likes and dislikes...
    Although, in defense of pumpkins - when you say you don't like them do you mean you don't like canned pumpkin - like you get in the store? If so, that's not actually pumpkin. It's actually a variety of squash called neck squash or something like that. Nice marketing trick, heh? Can a bunch of squash yet call in pumpkin...
    If you have ever had pumpkin from an actual pumpkin you need to make sure you are using a pumpkin variety for baking/cooking versus a jack o'lantern type which are not very sweet and have very stringy flesh. If you have a good "pie pumpkin" variety they are yummy! I like Winter Luxury, which makes a really light, fluffy pie (and AWESOME ice cream). Oh and pumpkin soup - one of my favorite fall/winter dishes!
    As far as gourds, it depends! Basically all squash/pumpkins are "gourds" it is just some have been found to have good eating qualities, some to have decorative qualities and some have both! A lot of gourds are derived from the "pepo" species which includes really good edible squashes like delicata but the gourds in this family are usually very bitter. But then, on the other hand, "bitter gourds" are actually grown and eaten at young perishable stages in many asian cultures. I don't think it would hurt to try the gourds you do have, I think you would know at first bite if they were sweet or bitter or worth eating!. As far as I know they won't actually make you sick, I've never heard that.
    An interesting side note, if you like the common "delicata" squash and eat a lot of them, you will occasionally find a really bitter one. That is because about 10 years back the one main grower of all the commercial delicata seed crop accidentally crossed them with a wild growing "bitter" gourd. Since then the industry has been trying to "clean" up the seed, but pretty hard! This is the dangers of all the seed being grown by very few people!
    Hubbards are fabulous, but to big (and hard-shelled) for so many folks! I grow a "dwarf" variety that I sell pretty well at the markets. But my neighbor plants about 20 acres a year into sugar hubbards (we are basically the sugar hubbard capital of the world, I think...), which he peels and cuts and sells in little plastic containers in the grocery store! Kinda cool. A very old variety his family has grown for a couple generations now.

  3. Thanks, PF, I'll screw up my courage and take a bite, and report back:)

    Fascinating stuff!

    The one good thing about fall is the arrival of fresh squash. Pepper, acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard.

    Oh, yes, I've never been a fan of pumpkin pie.

    I can't cook, so I just eat whatever agrees with me.

    Thanks again!
    Hugs and scritches to your dear horses:)

  4. Well I like pumpkin pie. Although every year when I make it I recall great-grandma's comment to always remember to add a little dash of nutmeg to the pumpkin pie mix, so it "don't taste like catshit..."
    So maybe you just need some nutmeg?

  5. Wow! a fellow canner! There is nothing more wonderful than that ping.

    I've got 2 1/2 pecks of peachs to get canned still, plus about a peck of tomatoes. is the best. They have a recipe for peach butter I'm going to try this year.

    I admit to freezing as well. We grew beets this year, and I don't have a pressure canner. So they are in the freezer, as well as about 5 gallon bags of green beens. Pickled beets- yuck.

    PF- have you tried pepper relish? I have my great grandmother's recipe and it's yummy. We use it for everything.

  6. Joanna -
    I would love your great-grandma's recipe. I made some pepper jelly last year which is awesome. Although peppers aren't a big crop we usually get - but I do have a few coming! Canning is a new thing for me (my mother never canned growing up so I never learned from her) and I have a love/hate relationship with it. Hate it when been doing it for hours on end. Love it when done and looking at all those great jars and especially when I can whip out something scrumptious in January and be ever so cool.
    I freeze too. Although we have so much meat in the freezer it is getting REALLY FULL! I think another freezer might be in order....