Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The importance of perpetuation

I don't think there would be much that I would like better in terms of food storage than a year's supply worth of basically ready-to-eat meals in the form of boxes, cans, and mres with far-off expiration dates and directions that included little more than to add water and heat. Don't get me wrong--I do have some canned food, some boxed food, and some mres, but not enough to last for a year. And even if I did have that much, I would see some things wrong with the equation, such as:

1) When/if I have to rely solely on my food storage, if I have decided to store only food with the above description, the only thing that I will be able to do is to watch my food storage supply go down, down, down. That would be fine if the emergency situation that dictated such use was guaranteed to last for only a year, followed by the guarantee that I would then be able to replenish my supplies again. In life there are no such guarantees--so watching my food storage go down without the ability to build it up again would cause me major stress. (Perhaps you have gathered by reading my blog that I can be a bit of a worrier.... :)

2)Eating only processed foods can't be the healthiest thing in the world for you anyway. I'm no nutritionist, but from what I understand, fresh fruit and vegetables and food made from scratch using your staples would most likely lead to better health in the long run. So convenience is nice, but good health trumps convenience by a mile.

So, I've been trying to learn/do things that will allow me to perpetuate my storage, because I would like it to last and last and last.... and one of those things is to grow things in my garden. You can't always rely on the weather, however, and the cold weather in our area this year caused some real damage to our crops. Combine that with my "worry" factor, and you'll see why I was unable to use my pumpkins this year for food. (Oh, I hated to write that--you have noooo idea how much I have not looked forward to writing that.) I've only used them for decoration before, and this year, really only "most likely", pictured in previous posts, got to be a somewhat regular hue of orange, with relatively little other damage. I was afraid to use the pumpkins that had green rinds, so those were out. Then there were some bug marks (I assume) that marred some of the others, and I didn't know what was safe and what was not. So I went to plan B.

On Saturday I went to the local national chainstore and purchased 3 pumpkins at $1.00/apiece, guesstimated by my husband to weigh 10-15 lbs. each. Then last night, I went back to this post on Johnson Family Farm, (I hope they don't mind that I keep linking to them--their step-by-step directions with pictures was what motivated me to go buy the pumpkins in the first place) and followed the directions for pumpkin puree. I was so excited to get started that I didn't reread it before we started, and I forgot to put water in with the pumpkin, so after we started doing that it went much smoother. What I didn't expect was how much time it took --it was easy, just time-consuming. We had the children help clean out the seeds, etc., (except for one, who apparently cannot stand the smell of raw pumpkin) and then started the rounds in the microwave. My husband actually did most of it, as it cut into bedtime and everything else, but in the end we did a quick pumpkin soup with a cup of the puree and have a large bag of pumpkin puree in the refrigerator. We didn't want to freeze it until we figured out a couple of recipes that we could use it with, and then freeze it in appropriate amounts to use later. So, if you have easy recipes that you're willing to share, please do... :) The pumpkin soup we made was ok, but kind of sweet, and we didn't think it would be a winner with the kids, so we probably won't repeat that one.

Ok, so my attempt to perpetuate my food storage by growing my own food was kind of stymied this year. If it had been a real emergency, I would have found out just how much of those pumpkins I really would use. So what is my (somewhat rambling) point? I need to be able to renew and perpetuate my food storage, not just use it up. I have non-hybrid seeds in storage, and I plan to increase the size of my garden next year. Canned food, boxed food, and mres are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, but they are one-time-use products. Emergency situations can be of unforeseen duration, so we all need a plan B when it comes to making sure that our food storage will last. Gardening is one way to supplement/perpetuate our food storage so that it will go on and on and on.... Growing, harvesting, and preparing it is a lot more work than the other types of food storage, but the effort is worth it.

One pumpkin down, two to go. Special thanks to the folks at Johnson Family Farm for directions even I wouldn't worry about.... :)


Anonymous said...

We have been canning and freezing and putting "stuff" away for 30 years with varying degrees of intensity. We continue to learn what works and what does not. This year we learned that cheap stockpots from India are cheap stockpots and food burns very easily to the bottom, thus making unusable pumpkin guts. You live and learn. Stay with it.

Carl In Wisconsin

Marie said...

Carl--Sorry about the stockpots, and thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes it's kind of embarrassing to admit that something doesn't work out, but hopefully there will always be a plan B. Thanks for your comments--they are always appreciated.

Stephanie in AR said...

The bug marks really wouldn't hurt anything but how long it could stay in storage as a regular old pumpkin. That bug mark is where the deterioration will begin. If you could not can or freeze (has to root cellar) those would be the ones to use first. Cut away the spotty part and you are good to go. Of course look to see if deterioration has started and cut away any bad spots (kind of like apples & bruises).

Some pumpkins never do turn all the way orange. Some of it is genetice & some of it has to do with amount of heat in the season needed to develope the orange color (genetics in a different manner). Look at the catalog/seed descriptions can help. That is why when to harvest descriptions often have several ways as color is not always a good indicator. That said, it is possible to use a green pumpkin. If you read "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls, they used theirs to make a pie. In choosing seeds for home storage keep in mind that those giagantic ones are not really for eating. To support such a large fruit there is a lot of fibers or 'strings'. They can be eaten but after the strings the taste is blah - though there are a lot of seeds. (we have done the 4H pumpkin growing competition in the past)

Some grow butternut squashes or (other hard squashes) and use them for everything - including pumpkin pie. Might be worth trying.

Kristen said...

Just found your site...
I feel the same way you do about perpetuating storage. I have planned to increase my growing area next year, save seeds, can/dehydrate more. It's a process; learning what works and what doesn't. As far as using fruit/not using it, I think if we get hungry enough, we'll eat it. In the olden days, they didn't have beautiful foods at a grocery, they had their farms and they ate everything. Sorry I rambled.

Marie said...

Stephanie--Thank you very much for that information--I will definitely remember it for the future. I have read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, many times when I was a kid, but I didn't remember about the green pumpkin--in the "Long Winter" I remember them twisting hay to burn, and always wondered how they could make that last. I guess it's time for a reread.
My neighbors got some great yellow squash this year that they shared, so I know it will come out great here--I will have to try that.
Thanks again for all the great information, and it's a great idea to learn more about the varieties I'm planting.

Kristen--With all the economic problems, I'm afraid that some supplies just won't be available and that we will have to make do with what we can produce ourselves. I agree with you that if I had questions about what I did have in the garden, and no other options, I would cut away what I thought was bad, and try to use the rest. I would have to make do--that's one of the reasons I'm trying to learn now what is edible and what's not, and how to prepare it. Definitely a learning process for me--took the plan B option this time, but it's not guaranteed that there will always be a plan B available... Thanks for your comment!

The Scavenger said...

Marie, I'm so glad that our post was helpful to you. That is what I hope is about, helping others learn new skills. No need to reinvent the wheel. Always glad to share information with all. You too had help me in many ways. I am now able to say that our food storage is getting additions on a regular basis thanks to your information. Thanks a bunch.


Marie said...

I really do appreciate the directions you provide on your blog--you have a way of making everything look easy. Thanks for your kind words, I hope everyone is increasing their food storage in whatever way they can, because you never know when/why you might need it (although with the economy you can sometimes guess, unfortunately.) Thanks again for the info--it couldn't have been more helpful or timely!