The value of eating locally and seasonally seems to be gaining momentum in the culinary world. However, what does it take to truly eat seasonally. Are you patient enough to wait until July or August for your first tomato? Can you put off picking or buying fresh berries until summer time? Are you okay with subsisting on mostly white-fleshed fresh vegetables all winter long? This has now become our way of eating on our homestead, and was the way of eating for many, many years prior to grocery stores. If you were to visit our home, we'd proudly tell you the source of each vegetable or piece of meat, typically saying a short grace or thanks before a meal, to further acknowledge the gratitude we have for wholesome food. We deeply root ourselves in the seasons and honor the changes that our environment and body, as they are one in the same, go through in a full year.
Eating deeply with the seasons was not something that came overnight. Through practice and discipline, I would venture to say that about 75% of our diet now comes from local, seasonally appropriate foods. We subsist mainly on foods we've put up ourselves, or purchased from fellow farmers. This way of life has been deeply nourishing and immensely grounding.
It's currently early March and we are fortunate enough to still have a wide variety of foods that we ourselves have put up. In our previous farm rental we were able to store foods in a mouse-proof shelving unit in our basement. This was a fairly consistent temperature, although if it got below zero, we would bring each bit of food up, box by box, into our cool spare bedroom. Once temperatures went back above zero, we would cart each box back into the basement again. While cumbersome, the overall storage of our root crops was good and long-lasting.
The transition in our new home has provided a less consistent temperature in our “root cellar.” However, the vegetables that are stored in our “root cellar” are still holding up as we enter the beginning of March. Our current remaining storage crops are red and yellow onions, purple top turnips, leeks, a variety of potatoes, garlic, and winter radishes. We ran out pretty quickly of carrots, winter squashes, and beets, acknowledging that we need to grow far more of these in the future. On top of produce we have many canned items, including salsas, stewed tomatoes, fruit jams, BBQ sauce, ketchup, picallilli, some canned fruits in light syrup, and tomato juice. In our pantry we store our own dried mushrooms, a variety of dried beans, wheat berries, rye berries, flint corn, amaranth, and black walnuts. Each year we also purchase or raise some meat to store in our freezer. We've raised pigs and meat birds ourselves, but also have purchased from a friend who raises pigs each year. This year we are taking a break from pork and hoping to purchase/barter a ¼ cow from Village Roots Permaculture. Our freezers also contain lots of frozen berries we harvest in the summer months, green beans, tomatoes, edamame, brussel sprouts, and shelled peas.
In general, we are able to eat a fairly well-balanced diet in the winter months, consisting of lots of soups, stews, and roasted meats and vegetables. The time and care we take in the summer months, to put up food for ourselves, has become a requirement in feeding ourselves a good amount of the year.
Together, we've acknowledged the food items we are currently having to buy from the local Co-Op. Mainly, nuts and grains, in one form or another. We thankfully can source local dairy, although have yet to find a local producer of butter. Our hens are laying about 8 months of the year. We render our own lard every few months, but find that some oils still need to be bought for specific recipes. Sugar is also an item we still purchase, but do try to use local maple syrup and our own honey as much as possible.
We continue to purchase wine and beer, although have increased the number of beverages we make ourselves. We have used local apple cider to bottle our own hard cider. We have also put up a variety of wines with local fruit, including Rhubarb, Grape, Autumn Olive, Dandelion, and Black Currant. We brew our own kombucha, but do have to purchase black tea to brew with.
All said and done, what we are able to provide for ourselves continues to impress me. I also find a lot of value in supporting fellow farmers and not trying to do it all ourselves. I feel grateful to the dairy farmers where we've gotten our raw milk over the past 4 years. I have a lot of respect for the cheese makers and will continue to support their work. I value the local breweries and cideries. There is a lot to be said about reaching out to your village, knowing the value in what you do, while respecting the value of what others do. I hope to continue to form those relationships with others in our community, knowing that as much as we nourish ourselves, they nourish us in a countless ways as well.
Ideas on where to begin putting up food for yourselves.
Tomatoes. We all love 'em and diced/stewed are a common staple in most pantries. Grow 'em and learn to can 'em
Find a farmer with chickens, or a portion of cow or pig for sale. Freeze the meat to choose from throughout the winter.
Jam. Wild-harvest or find an organic u-pick farm. Becoming in touch with the amount of energy that goes into 1 can of jam provides a new perspective for this delicious condiment.
Grow dried beans. Dried beans are a delight to harvest, and a joy to hold a jar of your very own kidney beans. They are also incredibly delicious.
Potatoes. A little row can put up a lot of food. Plus, they keep well!
Local Raw Milk. Find a dairy farmer, if you're fortunate enough to have one nearby, buy their milk. Raw whole milk provides countless benefits for the human body, while often milk is picked up in reusable glass jars, reducing waste.
Join a CSA. The most supportive avenue to local food. Connecting members with the seasonal abundance of foods.