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Archive for September, 2009

Fifteen Hundred Servings

DSC00047 The Fifteen Hundred Servings project started with the question, “Why are we doing this?”   It was July, and we were just getting started with preserving the early harvest of black raspberries.  I had read Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, and was acutely aware of the Miracle that is fresh produce.   So I started to wonder about what exactly we were trying to accomplish with this preserving.  Was it to save money?  Somewhat maybe.   Was it for health reasons?  Probably yes.  We think that the food we grow and pick ourselves is healthier than pesticide grown food.  Was it fun?  Depends on when you ask.   Is it satisfying?  Definitely yes!!  It’s immensely satisfying to grow, harvest, preserve, prepare, serve and eat your own food.  

And there is something else.  I was interested in the question of what it would take to put away enough produce to feed outselves all winter.  So we embarked on the Fifteen Hundred Servings Project.  We figured that that was the number of servings of fruits and vegetables we would need for two people for five months of winter December through April.  The arithmetic is as follows:  5 months x 30 days = 150 days x 5 servings per day = 750 servings x 2 people = 1500 servings. We decided to make a general rule that one cup of fresh produce would equal one serving, whether it was berries, squash, or tomatoes. 

So with the goal of 1500 servings in mind we set out to can, freeze, pickle, dehydrate, and store every bit of produce we could get our hands on.  We picked bushels of pears from our neighbor’s tree (with their permission of course); took away all the extras we could manage from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share; combed the local farmer’s market for bushels of apples, and agreed to take any excess produce off the hands of our gardening friends.  We devoted most weekends to the project and managed to rope a few friends into helping out.

On November 30, 2008, we tallied it all up.   We estimated that we had 1,327 1/2 servings, 172 1/2 servings shy of the 1500.  We were delighted.  If we had had room for more squash and potatoes we would have made it. 

So we ate our way through the winter.   We gave quite a bit away as gifts and were able to serve quite a few local/home grown meals to our guests.  The best thing was to be able to open a jar of our own canned pears in February.   Really, there is nothing better.

Here are a few things we learned.  Nectarines need sweetener.   Use stored beets by the end of December.  Butternut and orange squash go by fastest.  It is best to store squash in the kitchen where it is warmer and they can get good air circulation.  Don’t make so many dill pickles.  You can never have too many carrots.  Grape leaves need to be harvested early in the season.

This year is a little different.  We are going at it a little more slowly. At this time last year we had 528 1/2 servings put up.  This year we are at 365.  I think maybe it is because we don’t have the 15oo servings goal as firmly in our minds as we did last year, or it might be the new grand baby is taking up more time.  I expect we will reach at least 1000 servings this year when all the pumpkins, squash, potatoes are stored, and the last of the beans have been frozen.   We still have to figure out how many servings one garlic is worth.  There is always more to learn.  How much squash do we want?  I’d love to write more, but the broccoli is calling.

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