This year my garden completely failed. I attribute its abysmal lack of success to several factors — pests (large and small), several family trips over the summer, the seemingly constant rain and when all of these took their toll, my despair at the state of things.
I got my usual start in the spring with direct seeding of early herbs and flowers. But almost nothing came up. Several plantings of dill and cilantro never emerged, along with multiple varieties of poppies and other flowers. Then out of my first planting of beans only two came up.
What did come up was devoured by slugs or deer.
Then I neglected the garden. Now the growing season is almost over and I have only some volunteer tomatoes, volunteer winter squash and a few bunching onions and some basil to show for this year’s endeavor.
When I saw how this season was trending I decided this did not have to mean I wouldn’t preserve food.
In winter my expenditure at grocery stores rises as availability of local produce declines. I want to change this and fully stock pantry, freezer and root cellar by fall.
Although I didn’t grow much at all, I am managing to preserve as much as I ever have — and more than some years.
It started in the spring with ramp pesto. My family likes to preserve ramp bulbs in salt, so I mostly use the greens in pesto, and add pine nuts, cheese and a little lemon or balsamic vinegar.
I froze a bunch of jars of this beautifully green and pungent pesto. I love it throughout the winter on homemade pizza, or a little added to any type of pasta sauce.
This year I also bought local basil to make regular pesto. But instead of pine nuts I used sunflower seeds to make it allergy safe for a family member.
I’ve never been able to make more pesto than I can eat, so putting several jars into the freezer to pull out on winters days felt like a huge success.
Last year I froze chopped up sweet peppers and corn. These are among the vegetables I usually only eat when they are available locally in season. It was so much fun to cook with them in colder months, when my kitchen typically sees a lot of root veggies, cabbage and squash.
So this year I already have jars of cooked and cut corn, ready to be made into chowder or added to chili in the coming months. I also have some extra peppers from the market which I will chop and add to my freezer stash.
As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I made grape jam. I’ve already been enjoying it on classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and on biscuits so I’m not confident my supply will last until next grape season.
Because the volunteer tomatoes in my garden aren’t producing enough to preserve I bought a couple bushels of tomatoes from a local farm and I’ve completed one round of canning — 14 jars of crushed tomatoes are sitting on my counter ready to stock pantry shelves. I still more than twice as much to can, so I should be basically set for soups and sauces until spring.
While I’m still not fully reaching my goal of preserving the majority of my cold weather meals, I feel like I’m on a roll. I’m looking forward to preserving Asian pears and apples from my orchard, along with cabbage and other produce bought from those who didn’t let the growing season slip through their fingers.