This morning was the first morning that we could see our breath as the summer coming to an end. We thought about autumn and the approaching fall season. The autumnal equinox is toward the end of the month, but we are already harvesting a wide variety of crops to be stored for this winter’s food supply.
We have also been drying plants to save their seeds for the spring. Beans are the easiest. We pulled the whole plant up once the oldest bean on the plant has become completely dry & brittle. Then we hung them in the barn to “cure” for two weeks. The same process of curing is used to store winter squash, potatoes, onions, kohlrabi, garlic, pumpkins, carrots, beets, turnips & more. After the curing process we move all the produce to our root cellar that should just be getting cooler in the coming weeks when the produce will be done curing. Our root cellar is a very important aspect of food security and sustainability on the farm, a way of storing food with the lowest amount of energy input is our goal. The ability to keep food without a freezer, refrigerator, fuel-consuming processing or artificial cold room is one of the keys to self-sufficiency.
Fermentation is another way to give food a longer storing capacity, but many crops can be kept fresh all the way to next summer if kept the right way. For the past year or two we have tried different ways of storing fresh food, and we’re now able to eat garlic, onions, squash, carrots, rutabagas and beets through June. By fall planting greens in cold frames for an early spring harvest, we have overlapped different crops from one year to the next. Different varieties of crops keep differently, for example, onions and garlic like it cool and dry, winter squash like it warm and dry, and potatoes like it moist and cool!