Freezing the Harvest
Meg, over at Meg’s Food and Wine Page blogged this week about the plethora of fresh produce she encountered on her weekend in the Hudson Valley, and how this time of year what she eats is largely dictated by what’s ready to be eaten (and how rare this necessity has become in a world where we’re flying apples from New Zealand for out-of-season produce) … at any rate, her post is much better than this summary so just go read it.
But Meg’s post got me thinking about my summer here with my garden — yesterday I picked two huge baskets of chard and processed about half of it for the freezer (the other half I took to our local soup kitchen, which handily, is about a block and a half away). I also experimented with freezing some zucchini (which I have doubts about — I think the texture might get all weird but we’ll have to see). Right now, my days are dictated by the garden — yesterday’s experiment with zucchini came about because eight zucchini came ripe at the same time, and I can’t eat that many. And even if the texture does get a bit mushy — after growing my own produce I’m becoming increasingly wigged out by a zucchini that was picked somewhere in Mexico and then put on a truck and hauled all the way up here to Montana. How long has that zucchini been dead? How many people have touched it? How much fossil fuel did we expend getting it here? It just seems irresponsible to me — and since I have both the space and the inclination to garden — I’d like to try to eat as close to home as possible.
Which brings me to the other thought Meg’s blog inspired — the idea that what’s available can determine what we eat. That is, we eat what’s close, fresh, in season (or that we can preserve) instead of expecting to eat everything all the time. This isn’t a new or original idea — Alice Waters has been bludgeoning us all with this idea for years, and much of the slow food movement is also predicated on eating local, traditional fare. But for me it’s led to some new foods — chard and beet greens for example. I’ve discovered I like cooked greens — and although I always sort of vaguely liked them, they weren’t something I bought in the store much. But having grown them, and having encountered how prolific they are, I now understand how recipes like Italian Chard pie developed. If you grow chard, there’s a lot of it, and you start thinking of creative things to do with it. Personally, I’m planning to use a lot of my greens as filling for ravioli (once the weather cools down and I can bear to make pasta). There was a terrific commercial ravioli I used to buy in the bay area that was called “Italian vegetable” — it had chard and carrots and onions for the stuffing, with some ricotta of course. And I also see a lot of white bean soups with lovely greens happening this winter. Maybe it’s because I like to cook to begin with that I find this interesting, to experiment with those things that will grow here, and see what I can make from them. (Of course, I should probably be putting that creative energy into my novel, but a girl’s gotta have a hobby now, doesn’t she?)
And since they delivered my new freezer this morning, I now have someplace to store the summer greens, the local meats I buy at the Farmer’s market, the wild salmon we scored last winter from the brother of the guy who owns the Murray Hotel and who fishes in Alaska. Plus, I think it’ll be really nice in the dead of winter, when the snow is falling on my fallow raised beds, to go downstairs to the freezer and pull out a bag of chard, or gai lan, or beet greens, to eat a little bit of the summer that’s gone by.