Saturday, August 27, 2011

Food Storage Extenders

My collections of 'food storage' recipes often include recipes that combine dried or long term products like beans and rice with shorter term items like fresh produce.  I expect to either be able to garden or collect from the wild various edibles to compliment my food storage meals.

I consider my garden an extension of my food storage.  I feel a well rounded long term food storage is more sustainable than just a few buckets of grains that I am going to grind into flour or cook into soup.

In order for that expectation to be a reality, I have to learn a lot about how to grow, find, and use the fresh produce that is available.  I have to focus on learning how to consume or preserve each item while it is in season, as each season is far shorter than our moderns lives and grocery stores lead us to believe.

You really need to get 'back to basics' with this method of feeding your family.

I would encourage you to learn about wild and unusual edibles in your area.  Learn to grow a garden.  Use only open pollinated and non GMO seeds.  Realize that in a time of desperation, whether it is caused by an ailing economy, loss of job or a natural disaster ... you may not have access to your vast storerooms of carefully preserved food.  You may not have access to commercially produced products to replenish your storerooms when they run low. 
When your storerooms are unavailable or running low and you need to find ways to extend the little food you have and preserve the lives of those you love, knowledge of gardening and gathering wild edibles will be invaluable and irreplaceable in your endeavors.

A few major pointers in gardening. 

Get out and do it.
Whether you garden a substantial amount or a few pots on the porch.  Do it.  There are so many things to learn like when do I put it in the ground, how much water does it need, when is it ripe to pick it, how much does one plant provide, what do the yellow leaves mean ....  things that are hard to learn from a book without the reinforcement of the actual experience.

Don't get stuck on "heirloom" and don't be satisfied with grocery store seed packets.
There is a happy medium between buying expensive heirloom and low quality grocery store seed.  What you want to search for is OPEN POLLINATION.  Heirloom isn't always the best, and what is in your local grocery or gardening center is not the best either.  Heirloom is simply old open pollinated plants.  It doesn't mean that something newer isn't better.  What you want to stay away from is anything that is hybridized in a laboratory or is GMO.  Anytime a man thinks he knows more or better than God in creating your food .... stay away.  The reason for this is simple, it isn't natural (check this out, or this one) and often does not reproduce true to type from the seed of the produce you eat.  You want seed that will reproduce, true to type, year after year after year.  Whether you get that from a $1.25 grocery store packet or pay $4.00 on a specialty website it doesn't matter.  Just get it.  Natural hybridization (crossing two plants in a garden on purpose or selective seed saving for desired characteristics) is just fine once it is stabilized (proven to grow true type).  Hybrid is not always bad if it is done naturally.  It's how disease and pest resistance is naturally improved (I guess evolutions is real after all !!) in the tasty, wonderful, older varieties of plants.

Start gardening small.
Don't decide tomorrow that you will have a 1/4 acre garden if you have never done it before.  Start small so that you don't overwhelm yourself.  Grow something that you will eat that is easy ... (beans, cucumbers, tomatoes etc...) and grow something you really want, even if it's a little harder.  This way you are excited for the items you really want and you are satisfied with your work because you are almost guaranteed a crop with the easy item.  Once you master something, move on to a new product. 

Keep it fun and challenging for you.
Every year I like to plant something that I have never grown before.  I only plant one or two or 1 square foot ... but in this way I get to try eating new things, learn more about gardening, and increase my gardening confidence.  It also helps to keep things fun!  The majority of my garden is tomatoes, my staple crop, (lots of work canning) and a few melons (yum!) and cucumbers (more work canning).  Boring.  So I planted eggplant and celery.  The celery bombed ...  the eggplant rocked.  I will likely try celery again next year in a different spot because now it is a challenge, but will only grow the eggplant again if I enjoy eating it fresh this year. 

Good luck and I hope you get out and garden!!

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