I love to eat local and seasonal. And of course the easiest ways to do this are grow your own or hit the local farmers markets on the week-ends.
We’ve always managed to have veggie gardens where ever we have lived. Even if it’s small or in pots on the verandah.
Since moving into a place with the luxury of space we’ve taken full advantage – planting several garden beds, fruit trees, and bushes of berries.
Summer and early autumn are a great time to eat local, seasonal food.
But what do you do when the gardens and farms around you stop producing as much food?
Depending on where you live, you may still be able to get fresh produce late into fall and even early winter. The climate certainly on the coast around the Sydney region, gives us plenty of options that do well all year round or specifically in winter. Kale, spinach, fennel, beetroot, radishes, chillies and plenty of herb varieties are still going strong in our garden.
And milk, eggs, and fresh meat are pretty much available year round.
But I really miss my tomatoes, eggplants and cucumber and raspberries in winter.
So what do you do about the fruits and veggies you love during the coldest winter months and early spring before most gardens start to produce?
You prepare for it by preserving the summer and autumn harvest to use throughout the winter months.
You may be thinking this will get complicated. It doesn’t have to though – unless you want to start experimenting with canning and fermenting.
Love berries? It can be as easy as freezing excess berries from the garden to use in your smoothies and oatmeal throughout the year. Or if there is a great deal at the markets during peak season buy in bulk and freeze the excess. This year I got 20 punnets of strawberries for $5, giving me enough to freeze for smoothies and make some jam.
Some veggies freeze also freeze well. If you have extra green beans or okra, freeze them. We are mad on cualiflower rice in our house. I’m not so great at growing but when they are cheap we buy in bulk, “rice” them in the processor and put them in serving size freezer bags.
But if you are feeling a little more ambitious, consider doing some canning. Most vegetables can well and you can even make a batch or two of homemade tomato sauce and can.
Think about what veggies and foods you use throughout the year that you buy canned. These are the first things you want to can. The same principle works for freezing. What frozen fruits and vegetables to you end up using when you don’t have good fresh options at the grocery store? These are the things you want to start with.
Fermenting and pickling are two other great ways to store fruit and veggies. Plus fermented food has a whole raft of health benefits – getting in all that good bacteria to keep your gut healthy. Home-made sauerkraut – fermented properly (not preserved with vinegar like many store bought versions) is simply delicious and cabbages are cheap most of the year round.
For a great resource on fermenting your own veggies and other cultured foods check out Donna Scwhenk from Cultured Food Life
From there you can start to explore and experiment. Try making a batch of fruit jam, or try your hand at pickling cucumbers. Talk to farmers and other shoppers at your local farmers market and farms.
Do a little research online, or pick up a food preservation book at your local library. There are key things to remember in terms of food safety when you start pickling, preserving and fermenting
And let’s not forget about older friends and family members. Nana cooked mainly from local, seasonal food back in the day and can give you quite a few tips to help you get back to this way of cooking and preserving food.
Don’t overwhelm yourself at the beginning. Do what you can and try a couple of new things. From there, start expanding each year.
Keep adding a few more things each year and it won’t take you long to eat local seasonal food throughout the year.