As my husband and I were out weeding in the garden the other evening, we realized that we will soon need to increase the output of our garden. Our kids' appetites are growing with them, and they love fresh fruit and vegetables. We have plans for an orchard in the spring, a vineyard, kiwi, and berry bushes. We love growing vegetables and are drawn toward heirloom varieties. And along with growing our food, we have a new-found love of preserving our food.
My early memories of canning aren't exactly happy ones. I remember being forced (or so it seemed at the time) to sit for what seemed like hours snapping green beans with my mom and grandma to prepare for the pressure cooker. Or the tomatoes. Oh, the tomatoes! The food mill was always attached to the banister on the deck, and we took our turns pushing them through to squeeze out as much juice as we could. But, that's generally where my participation ended. While I enjoyed the fruits of my parents' labor, I wasn't keen on learning too much about the process.
Fast forward 15 years or so, and now here I am with my own children and garden. My husband and I have plans to grow as much food as possible so food preservation is something we are excited about. A few years ago, we got beets for weeks on end from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We had no idea what to do with them at the time, other than cooking them in a balsamic/sugar glaze. While it was wonderful, we grew tired of the same thing. Now that we have grown our own beets, and have fallen in love with their earthy flavor, we have been enjoying preparing them in different ways. One of our favorite things to do is pickle them. It's so fun popping open a jar of beets in the middle of winter. The smell and taste transport us back in time to warmer weather and fun in the garden.
But, for us, preservation isn't just canning. We also freeze as much as we can. So far this summer, we have frozen a gallon each of strawberries, black raspberries and blueberries. I'm going to pick more blueberries tomorrow so we can can some jam or pie filling. We also prefer to freeze our green beans. Last summer, my daughter's first food was a green bean. We gave it to her to play with during dinner one night and the next thing we knew, she was eating it.
And we also enjoy keeping things in our root cellar that don't need much work at all – winter squash and potatoes. Other than the picking, that is! And we also love dried beans. We joke and say that beans are the lazy gardener's best friend. Plant some seeds, watch the plants grow, watch the plants wither, and harvest the beans.
Our hope is that our children will grow and appreciate growing our own food. And I look forward to the day when we grab something out of the freezer, pantry or root cellar, and one of our kids say, “I remember when we picked this!”