Thursday, September 11, 2008

Preserving Summer's Bounty

As a vegan committed to green living, I'm a big fan of community supported agriculture and eating foods grown regionally. (Ok, I have to make an exception for Green Tea). Eating regionally year round is no problem if you live and work in San Francisco but it's really challenging if you live in New England where the ground is frozen from November to May.

How does a committed locavore (that's the new lingo per the Oxford English Dictionary for a regional food patriot) thrive in New England?

The answer is to preserve the summer's bounty. Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have been harvesting the beets, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, kale, beans, squash, peppers, and carrots from our home garden (photo above).

The techniques we're using are more 1700's than 21st century. No herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers in the garden. Preservation through low sodium pickling, canning and preparing root vegetables for a winter in the root cellar so that we'll have regional foods for months to come.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to preserve regional foods:

Basic Refrigerator pickles
Sweet pickles
Dill pickles
Low sodium pickles
Asian pickles

Canning

Freezing

In my Dreaming of Green blog entry, I described my lifelong journey to incrementally reduce my carbon footprint and create a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle. This year, our efforts with community supported agriculture and our own garden are helping us iteratively improve our regional food commitments.

I look forward to the day when the refrigerator and pantry is stocked with only regional foods, eaten fresh from June to October and eaten preserved from November to May. We've already eliminated all animal products from the household, now the next step is to reduce our reliance on pre-packaged and commercial sources of food. No more midwinter fresh fruits from Chile or lettuce flown 4000 miles.

It's a journey that will take many years, but our efforts to reduce/recycle/reuse, eat regionally, and reduce dependency on commercial sources may result in enough discipline so that our retirement lifestyle can be carbon neutral, off grid and as supportive of regional producers as possible.