Wrapping up the year

I haven’t felt that there has been much for me to write about in the last few months – my apologies.  My planting for the year is finished and I have been trying to make what produce  is left in the garden survive as long as possible.  It is surprising how long one can harvest food from a garden, especially if the fall is reasonably mild.

Winter hit southern Ontario on Tuesday, December 8th.  Up until that time we had had many frosts but nothing drastic and no snow.  In my garden I managed to prolong the harvest of beets, green onions, spinach, kale, swiss chard, parsley and salad greens.  I served my last spinach salad yesterday, December 9 to friends.  This year I have covered the spinach with a thick layer of straw and I am hoping that much of it will survive the winter and grow again in the spring.  Over wintering of vegetables is really worth trying to do, as it means there are full sized salad leaves for the picking by late April.  If this snow melts soon, I may be able to cut the last of my salad greens and have a few more salads.  Nevertheless, salad from the garden in the first week of December is very impressive and really does show that we have potential to do so much.

For the most part I am beginning to eat from my cold room.  I stocked that in early November with 2 bushels of potatoes, 2 bushels of carrots, 6 large cabbage, 8 turnips, 2 bushels of onions, 1/2 bushel of leeks, 1/2 bushel of parsnips, 1/2 bushel of beets, and about 3 dozen garlic bulbs.  It is amazing how well this all stores, even though there is nothing fancy about my little cold space.  It is located in an unfinished basement, insulated from the rest of the room and at the end furthest away from the furnace.  I make a trip to a local organic farmer and buy all of these vegetables at once – my Honda Civic  struggles under the weight but we manage.  I find that leeks and beets do not keep as well as my other vegetables so I work at eating these first.  The rest really do well into late March and often into April and May.  I store my carrots in damp sand and have often had wonderfully crisp and sweet carrots in late May and early June.  Sometimes I wonder why such simple solutions have been forgotten.

In an email newsletter entitled Good Food Nation I see that MIT researchers think that America’s obesity epidemic can be reversed via ‘foodsheds’.  Essentially this means that we should eat food that is grown within a certain distance of our home.  By doing this we would find that our diets would change from processed and packaged foods to foods that are healthier and also more affordable.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 90% of American foods are processed.  Eating food that is locally grown and comes to us through farmers markets and local stores, would in essence mean a shift to far more fruit and vegetables, and a shift away from sending those fruit and vegetables elsewhere for processing.  Sounds like a good idea.

Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemna has voiced support for the idea of building regional foodsheds.  By creating a regional system of food distribution, transportation costs can be reduced, making nutritious foods cheaper.  Studies show that locally grown fruit and vegetables travel an average of 56 miles, while imported fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1500 miles.  In this issue, it never seems to fail that an analysis of the numbers reveals some pretty shocking information.   Pollan also lends his support to the idea of individuals growing some of their own food in their own gardens, noting that the Victory Gardens of World War II supplied over 40% of U.S. fruit and vegetables.  This is quite significant and hopefully all of you that are reading this blog will be thinking about their gardening plans for next year!  Send away for some seed catalogues – I recommend William Dam and Johnny’s among the larger companies as well as many of the small, organic seed companies that have sprung up over the last few decades.  Just google ‘organic seed companies’ and your area and see where the search takes you.

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