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October’s gifts: Preserving the harvest

 

October is here, and with it the promise of Fall. In the foothills, this is a time of great abundance. With the first frost still on the horizon, summer gardens still have bounty to be picked and processed. You may have noticed in your own gardens and neighborhoods that it has been a great year for fruit trees! There’s no shortage of local food right now! It can be overwhelming to manage the abundance of fall, but there are lots of ways to preserve the harvest. Imagine if this were the time of year that you had to preserve all your food for the coming winter and spring- what a stressful idea! Indeed, we get to preserve the harvest because we want to, and not because it’s essential to our survival. While it’s not going to make the difference of whether your family makes it through winter, putting away your own food builds resilience and strengthens the power of local food. It also helps move the needle on the Nevada County Food Policy Council’s goal of 20% Whole-sum food by 2025 challenge.

“The goal”, said Miriam Limov, the council coordinator, “is that by 2025 at least 20% of the food that Nevada County residents consume will be local or regional, fair trade, ecologically produced and/or humanely raised.” According to their recent Food System assessment only 10-15% of the food we eat falls into one of these categories.

In the interest of increasing this percentage on your own plate, here are some ideas for preserving the harvest:



Dehydrate

Using a food dehydrator is a great way to preserve fruit that would otherwise go to waste. You can cut thin slices and use a dehydrator or even your oven on a low setting. If you want to get creative, try cooking it down, blending it and dehydrating your own fruit leather on wax paper. Helpful hint for fruit leathers- use coconut oil or another oil so that it doesn’t stick. Roll them up and you have ready-made snacks!

Freeze

Short on time but have some freezer space? Tomatoes can go in the freezer whole, and you can deal with them when you have more time! Or use big zucchinis to make fritters and freeze the fritters for an easy dinner. Freeze fruits and berries on a cookie sheet and then move to plastic bags. Too lazy to can but have space? Try making salsas or quick jams and pop them into the freezer.



Can

Canning can be a very rewarding way to preserve the harvest, but it does involve special equipment, time, and an understanding of food safety. In essence, canning is heating veggies or fruits and acid to a high temperature in glass jars until they seal. “The Ball Blue Book of Canning” is a great resource, as is the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning If you don’t have canning supplies of your own, try asking a neighbor or on social media. Chances are, someone is more than happy to let you borrow (especially if you promise some canned goods in return!)

Ferment

Fermentation is a fabulous and nutritious way to preserve the bounty, as it doesn’t require refrigeration and is filled with gut friendly probiotics. Try making pickles, sauerkraut or even apple or plum wine. Have lots of apples? You can also easily make apple cider or apple cider vinegar.

Condiments

While not a category of preservation, condiments can be one of the most fun ways to preserve the bounty. Hot sauce, ketchup, chutney, simple syrups — you can make a world of tasty options even if you only have a little excess produce to use. Or try making some herbal salts and sprinkles. Try smashing up some garlic and marinating it in tamari or honey as a medicinal and tasty marinade.

If your garden is bountiful and you don’t have time or energy to preserve the harvest, fear not! The Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM) and the Nevada County Food Bank are happy to take donations of fresh food to share with others in the community, or you can contact the Gleaners at Sierra Harvest who will come pick your excess produce for you and deliver to IFM or the Food Bank. Together, we can grow and eat our way up to the 20% Whole-sum food by 2025 challenge!

For more information or to get involved sign up online on the Food Policy Council website page at: https://sierraharvest.org/connect/food-policy-council/ or contact fpc@sierraharvest.org. Look for this continued series which is informed by the Nevada County Food Policy council’s recent food system assessment every month.  Read the Food System Assessment here: https://sierraharvest.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/FSA-2020_011121.pdf

Amanda Thibodeau is with the Nevada County Food Policy Council

If your garden is bountiful and you don’t have time or energy to preserve the harvest, fear not. The Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM) and the Nevada County Food Bank are happy to take donations of fresh food to share with others in the community, or you can contact the Gleaners at Sierra Harvest who will come pick your excess produce for you and deliver to IFM or the Food Bank.
Photo by Miriam Limov

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