There are eight containers of salsa and seven bins of tomato sauce in my freezer. Before the frost, I blended some tomatillos and hot peppers for a salsa verde, and I oven roasted some tomatoes with onions and herbs. These ‘canned’ items will be delightful, when, on a winter day, or in late autumn if I grow impatient and the weather is cold enough, I will pull them out of the freezer to let thaw and heat on the stove top for some waiting chips and boiling pasta. This cheap method of preserving the harvest is not as practical as setting that little bit of summer in canning jars. The skill and time of canning is far more of a ritual and harkens one to images of pantry shelves lined with seasonal crops. Peaches, beets, dilly beans to name a few are all worthy of preservation and an afternoon or more well-spent sterilizing jars, boiling the fruits and vegetables so they will last for a long winter. Back in the sunnier days of fall, how wonderful it would be if more folks were to tune out the noise of injuries and concussion reports from different fields of green, so as to tune into the bounty of locally grown, organic produce and less expensive means to enjoy tomatoes and such for the parts of the year when the farm fields and garden plots are all frozen or covered in snow. The sauce makers from Rao’s, Prego or even the late great actor Paul Newman will continue to make their jars of tomato gravy and distribute them to grocery stores, but there are ample opportunities to make a greater impact on the environment by procuring our own sustenance. Even now, with only a light frost having hit our South Shore towns, there are vegetables, herbs and root crops that are ready for keeping. Bean seeds in green bean and scarlet runner pods are drying. Soon, as I continue to be indoors more often, I can separate and count those bean seeds in advance of spring and before I order my seeds from seed catalogs that are already posted in the mail to try and compete with shoppers at this gifting time of year. I have gifts right in front of me in the form of bundled and dried oregano and marigold seed for next summer’s flowers. I could even set aside some ready compost for one’s indoor plants come the holidays. But there is more to can, preserve and keep and for many others as well who may not have access to such produce, activity or kitchen space.
I have already begun the process of thinking about what and how to can from next Summer’s harvest. The gardeners and plot tenders at Teak Sherman Community Farm Pantry Garden will be asked to help as they too plan what to grow in 2016. This garden invites folks to grow produce for themselves at the community garden in Scituate and asks them to donate a portion of their harvest to the Scituate Food Pantry. These committed gardeners also employ organic methods and practice sustainable agricultural practices, such as mixing in seaweed to their plots as a mulch and to help protect the soil from winter winds. Wouldn’t it be great to gather in a year or so at a church kitchen to preserve the harvest? I look forward to a time when the gardeners can gather and cook together. We could make meals and dishes which could be available for the community at the food pantry. We can research recipes new and old, we can find out what winter meals would be welcome for someone who relies on the food pantry. We can go beyond the effort to donate produce and grow to help the food pantry for closer to twelve months a year. Let’s further debunk the myth that farming ends with a Thanksgiving meal and rather can be extended, for all, well-beyond the time that the harvest is in. Let’s stock the cupboards, fill the freezer and line the shelves with more healthy, organic, locally grown farm fresh food.
© 2015, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm