Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

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7/13/2016

Purslane is a weed. It is drought tolerant, heat tolerant and quite prolific. Yet, if you have it in your yard, it is probably the most nutritious thing growing in your garden.

Purslane has seven times more betacarotene than carrots as well as 14 times more omega-3 fatty acids and six times the vitamin E of spinach. Some researchers claim that it actually has more omega-3s than some fish oils. It is also high in iron, magnesium, manganese, potasium, calcium and copper. Traditional Chinese medicine has long used it to help with many gastrointestinal disorders.

purslane

I have never planted purlane yet it is growing all over my garden. I let it grow between rows of crops or where vegetables didn't germinate well. It grows fast so it gives me something to put on my plate well before any carrots or beets are ready. I add it to smoothies, toss it in salads, or steam it for 4 or 5 minutes and serve it with butter and salt. Delicious!

I also like to add it to my bone broth soup. I discovered more than 30 years ago (and I honestly can't remember how I did) that if my husband, Bob, and I have at least two servings of my homemade soup a week, we have no problems with our joints. If I forget, my knees really bother me.

One thing that I like to do with my soup is give it as many goodies as I can so that it will be packed with vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are water-soluble, so they leave whatever bones or vegetables that you put into the pot and transfer into the soup. I always add beets, carrots, leafy greens and a small piece of good-quality liver (from an animal that was pastured and raised humanely on a small farm).

So in the summer, I throw in some purslane. This year, I decided to put some in the freezer for the winter soups.

Freezing Purslane

I pulled up a bunch of purslane cutting off the root and throwing it in a large pan. This I washed repeatedly with a hose — this particular plant comes quite dirty. Bringing it inside, I washed each piece individually and cut the stems from the central piece that was attached to the root.

center stem

These I placed in the top of my steamer.

 cutting off stems

The center piece I put aside to feed to the chickens (they could be composted).

 cut off center

I steamed them until they wilted, turning repeatedly with tongs. This takes only a couple of minutes at most.

 steam & toss

I then placed the purslane in a small bowl that was in a larger bowl of ice water. Remember the water-soluble aspect of vitamins and minerals? If I just placed the purslane in the ice water, the wonderful nutrients that I am seeking would be washed away.

 cooling down

Again turning periodically with the tongs, I wait until all of it has cooled down. It's never wise to put something hot into a plastic container as some undesirable bits could leach into the food.

Once cooled, I put the purslane into bags and spread it out so that it will lie flat. Marking the package with the contents and date, into the freezer it goes.

 ready for freezer

If I do this several times a summer, I will have the wonderful nutrients available in this delightful weed to add to my soups all year long.

Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/11/2016

 

By now, I’ve gotten past the glut of cookies from Christmas, and there are no more in the freezer. With temperatures soaring well into the 90s, we can’t bear to light the oven — so refrigerator cookies to the rescue!

Just mix up the dough, pop it into the freezer and, when the Cookie Monster attacks, slice off a few and bake for instant cookie gratification. 

I mixed up the dough for these while I was in cookie-baking mode last December. The dough keeps for months in the freezer.  My little toaster oven does a great job baking eight or 10 cookies, uses very little electricity itself, doesn’t heat up the kitchen, and saves the air conditioning.

The variety is endless — see some flavor ideas below. Start with the basic dough and add to it. Pictured are the toasted almond kind. They’re buttery, tender, melt-in-your-mouth cookies.

Recipe for Basic Cookie Dough

Ingredients:

• 2 ½ cups all purpose unbleached flour
• ½ tsp salt
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
• 1 cup cane sugar (organic if possible)
• 1 tsp vanilla
• ½ tsp almond extract
• 1 large egg

Directions:

1. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Cream butter and sugar, add the egg and the vanilla and almond extract and cream until light. With the mixer on “stir”, slowly add in the dry ingredients just until the dough sticks together and the dry ingredients are well incorporated. Don’t overmix after adding flour — you’ll develop gluten and your cookies will be tough.

3. Spread a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Wet your hands so the dough doesn’t stick. With the hands, form the dough into 3 logs, about 1½ inches thick and 5 inches long. Wrap each log firmly in plastic wrap and freeze in a zipper freezer bag.

4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the roll of dough sit out for just a few minutes to partially thaw. Line the baking pan of your toaster oven with parchment. Slice the dough about ¼-inch thick and place on the parchment about ½-inch apart.

5. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly golden. Remove to a cooling rack unless the cookies are already eaten.

Toasted Almond Cookies Recipe

Additional ingredients (added to basic recipe above):

• 1 cup almonds, skin on

• Additional ½ tsp almond extract

Directions:

1. Toast almonds for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. They will be lightly browned throughout. Let cool, then grind in the mini-processor to about 50 percent meal and 50 percent chopped.

2. Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir together then stir in the almonds.

3. Proceed with basic directions.

Cardamom-Pistachio Cookies Recipe

Additional ingredients (added to basic recipe above):

• ½ tsp ground cardamom or 6 whole cardamom pods*
• 1 cup shelled pistachios

Directions:

1. Measure the 1 cup of sugar in the basic recipe.

2. Snip open six whole green cardamom pods, and take out the seeds. Put the seeds with ¼ cup of the recipe sugar into a coffee grinder and grind. Return this to the measuring cup.

3. Toast the pistachios for 5 min in a 350-degree oven. Let cool, then grind in the mini processor until well chopped and about half of the nuts are a meal texture.

4. Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir together. Then, stir in the pistachios.

5. Proceed with basic directions.

Chocolate Cookies Recipe

Additional ingredients (added to basic recipe above):

• Add ½ cup good unsweetened cocoa powder into the dry ingredients.
• Add 1 tsp espresso powder or a couple teaspoons instant coffee if you like.

Pecan Sandies Recipe

Additional ingredients (added to basic recipe above):

• Add a cup of ground pecans to the dry ingredients.

Lemon Cookies Recipe

Additional ingredients (added to basic recipe above):

• Add 1 Tbsp of grated lemon peel

I’m sure you can come up with even more cookie flavors.

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/11/2016

Washing Berries In Kitchen Sink

I’m a firm believer that our children always learn by example. This ranges from teaching them to be kind to others all the way to learning life skills such as, growing and raising their own food, cooking and even sewing. That’s why I think it’s really important to include children in pretty much everything you do.

Learning Life Skills

When I was little, I spent a lot of time with my Nana, and she took on the role of teaching me the life skills that are with me today. She would put me in the middle of her kitchen table where I could watch her making herself busy.

Those moments in my life have created some of the best memories for me. Sitting on her table, stealing raw bread dough because it tasted oh-so-good, getting to eat some peaches or fresh green beans while watching my Nana get everything prepared to can.

At the time, I didn’t realize that I was learning what I would need to know when I grew up. I just thought she plopped me on the table to keep me out of trouble and so she could keep an eye on me. But I realize now that she was also teaching me everything I’d need to know.

The Farmers Market Provides Food Self-Sufficiency

Fast forward years later, and I have my own family. Through the years, my Nana’s traditions dwindled away and some were forgotten.

With a large family — there are nine of us — I went searching for ways to feed my family healthier and a whole lot more cheaply. I was a mom on a mission and I was determined to make sure my family could eat better and be healthier as well.

With a sales flier in hand, my discount card hooked on my key chain and my walking shoes on, I marched myself into the store thinking I was actually going to save some money and eat more healthfully.

I was disappointed quite quickly. Even with sale prices and a discount card, the healthier food options were still expensive. They weren’t on sale and the discount cards didn’t apply to the foods I was looking for. I left the store feeling frustrated that I hadn’t achieved my goal.

Ending up back at the drawing board and doing some brainstorming, I remembered sitting with my Nana and watching her can hundreds of quarts and pints and in that moment the light bulb went on. Now I didn’t have access to hundreds of acres of land, so I had to come up with a new option. The farmers market became my best friend.

Making Home Canning Memories

Years ago, I would have never let my kids in the kitchen when I was cooking. But as time went by, I realized that if I didn’t let them help me, they would never learn to do anything when they were adults.

So, I took on my Nana’s traditions and surrounded myself with my kiddos and we got to work on three flats of strawberries. We had a blast cutting the tops off and slicing them in half. My little ones especially enjoyed mashing the berries.

The kids ate as much as we canned and we all had a good time. The best part: We were making memories together, memories like my Nana made with me.

Becca Moore is an aspiring homesteader and gardener in Pennsylvania who runs Simply Quaint Homestead. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


7/8/2016

Some experiences in life depend on our involvement. Much about our state of health is dependent on our environment. How we interact with our environment is dependent on our perspective. Perspective is an internal experience and quality.

As our mother planet heats up and the political body of humans is focused on conflict, it is only our inner world that we can control. We can redirect our attention to become dependent on what is in our souls, rather than in our hands, what is in the seed and soil, rather than the courts and board rooms.

Inner dependence can lead to sovereignty. It demands intention, awareness and practice. Often when we travel to a place that is new to us, our senses get sharp and our awareness awakens. This reaction is primarily for safety. We want to remember streets and roads, new addresses and landmarks along with new faces, names and language. This heightened awareness stimulates other thinking capacities as well.

Recently two members of the collective Grow Where You Are were selected to visit Cuba with FoodFirst.org on a food sovereignty tour. This exciting honor is still fresh in the hearts and minds of Nicole Bluh, Operations Coordinator, and Maricela Vega, Agroecology Intern. Below each of them shares a bit of their reflections about local food systems and the people at the center of them.

Cuba is in an energized transition at the same time that the toxic conspiracy of the corporate agribusiness system is being unmasked.

 

Insights from Maricela Vega, Grow Where You Are Agroecology Intern

My country of birth is USA, though my blood streams Mexican heritage and I am a first-generation American woman of 27 years of age. I am still seeking to understand real independence and doing it through the coursework of what most would consider as “not so traditional” work fare.

My work involves understanding this lost meaning of what it is to be a sovereign thus independent being in this current state of society. It has a meaning tied to your freedom to be a healthy, educated being with the opportunity to possess property or land that is used to aid your choice of way of living and how you choose to determine your position in economic stances.

Grow Where You Are, in partnership with Food First, provided me a scholarship opportunity to travel to Cuba during its most recent developing economic and social state of governing as an independent social country in the western hemisphere. With the embargo being lifted earlier this year, Nicole Bluh and I went during an unimaginable post­-Cold War/Millennial time period just 6 months into open doors to American travelers.

We traveled with Food First, a pro-­sovereignty, pro-campesino international organization, to learn a different perspective of sovereignty. The trip included the meeting of over 15 different communities of Cuban growers, helping to confirm my views of independence. Cuba has established land grants to the people for the sake of providing food for themselves and contributing to both economics and the society. This introduced me to the underestimated power and benefit of community practice that societies such as Cuba embody daily.

In Cuba, food security becomes a natural priority and basic need in the communities. From individual state food rations distributed via CDR (revolutionary community defenses), to upholding Organoponicos (organic community farms), and shedding light on the main source of survival, which is the Grower.

In Cuba, a food producer is not undervalued as they are in the U.S. The growers are the majority in the General Assembly, which aids in Cuban legislature. The growers are currently being advised to pursue farming wherever there are empty, unused lands.

After the 1990’s collapse of their supporter country formerly known as the Soviet Union, the increased pressure of NAFTA in the Americas, as well as global economic issues, Cuba felt more inclined to reintroduce and revolutionize food sovereignty as a social solution. Despite an American embargo being “lifted”, Cuba is not allowed to export to the USA though the USA is allowed to export to Cuba. This makes economic trade difficult with a Western neighboring country, such as the USA. This reinforces the concept of agroecology in community as a staple of economic revolutionary grounds

Please read and engage with the words from these women as they share their travels within Cuba. Interdependence is another possible interpretation of INdependance.

We all contribute to the current global food system as consumers, producers or both. This food system operates through food regimes that  have defined land borders, currency and warfare for centuries. How do the growers participate at this time when academics, advocates and activists compete for a position to represent them rather than support, celebrate and listen to the ones who grow our food?

 

Insights from Nicole Bluh, Grow Where You Are Operations Coordinator

Cuba is at a precipice right now between coming out of their Special Period, where they had to completely restructure their agricultural and manufacturing sectors after the break up of the USSR, and the entrance of multinational corporations as well as a huge increase in tourism.

Before the 90s, they were growing mainly sugarcane for export while using more chemicals per area than any other nation in the world. When the USSR broke, which was their main buyer of sugar and supplier of agricultural inputs, they lost their client and also lost imports from them. This is where they had been importing most of their food supply. Quickly Cuba had to work to rebuild their agricultural system with what they had available, to feed their people. The times were lean.

Going through and coming out of these lean times, with access now to cheap oils, wheat and meat, contributes to the degradation of their cultural healthful diet. During the Special Period, Cubans caloric intake dropped very low, although everyone had something. With 2014 agrarian and land reforms from Raul Castro that are set up to get the people back into agriculture and onto the land, and the beginning of the lift of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, there is much change afoot.

While there is a major push in investments into input-heavy industrialized agriculture once again, there is a very solid grassroots movement of agroecology and permaculture spreading. These permaculture and agroecology communities are demonstrating the rich quality of life  and health that can come from deciding to return back to the live and work with land in Cuba.

If someone had told me that in 7 years I would be traveling to Cuba as a grower and representing a collective of urban growers from Atlanta, with someone I was having an educational exchange with (our apprentice, Maricela Vega) I would have been stunned. Considering the turnaround I have had in consciousness, in my health and skill set, however this does make sense.

Through this process of learning to live a life based in agriculture, I have been immersed into the depths of how agriculture is the base of our entire system and the field in which almost every ill we face in our society can be worked out.

The externalized costs of any system are most often most blatantly felt by the laborers.  This is reason for many, worldwide to decide to not move into the field of agriculture, either because the compensation is poor, there is no longer access to arable land, or the image or status is no longer desirable.

Cuba is opening access to land; however, the desire to be in the field of agriculture is still low, and Cuba is moving forward with the industrial agriculture investments so as to ensure a food source for their people.

A major reason for the degradation of the symbol of agriculture as desirable work is because of the effects of the U.S. export of a system based on slavery and theft. As labor workers in the food system, we have been discussing and working with some of the most pressing issues such as land access, marketing of vegetables, environmental degradation, racism, health, respect for the labor, etc.

This connection to Food First has brought us into a global movement and community of growers who realize that for true positive change to happen in the food system, the growers must be in leadership.

Photos by Nicole Bluh and Maricela Vega

Eugene Cooke presents the “Grow Where You Are” workshop series and book in partnership with the organization m.a.m.a. earth. After years of working as an independent contractor supporting urban agriculture organizations, Eugene established Grow Where You Are, LLC, to create a structure for the collaborative efforts of local food heroes to yield tangible results. The main hub for Grow Where You Are is the Good Shepherd Agroecology Center in Southwest Atlanta, Ga., where clean food is grown in a system that preserves the ecology and supports the people. Read all of Eugene's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/8/2016

 

Wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius) are one of the most abundant of summer’s brambleberries. In fact, they are often listed as an invasive species. Luckily for foragers, they are also delicious

Finding and Identifying Wineberry

Look for wineberries in summer, usually just after black raspberries stop fruiting and before or at the same time as the blackberry season. They grow in full to partial sunlight or occasionally even partial shade, along roadsides, in parks, and at the edges of fields and clearings.

Wineberry canes can grow as long as 8 feet. Like other brambleberries (plants in the Rubus genus), these canes or stems arch over at their ends and can form dense thickets. Instead of the prickles (often called thorns) that blackberries and raspberries have, wineberries have hairy bristles that are the color of orangutan fur if the plant is growing in full sun, but closer to green if growing in shade.

The 3-parted leaves are toothed, and the upper surface is green but the undersides are white. The 5-petaled flowers are white and less than an inch in diameter with the many stamens characteristic of Rubus and other plants in the Rosaceae plant family. They grow in loose clusters.

Wineberries are compound fruits like raspberries, but orange-red in contrast to red raspberry's red and black raspberries dark purple. Your fingers will get sticky when you pick wineberries – consider that part of the ID.

How to Harvest Wineberries Sustainably

Rubus phoenicolasius is an introduced Asian plant that spreads so aggressively city park departments assign volunteers to weed it out. Enjoy the delicious fruit, and do not feel even a tiny bit guilty about depriving the birds of the chance to spread the seeds of this invasive species.

Although wineberry's bristly canes aren't as likely to scratch you as blackberry prickles, it's still not a bad idea to wear long pants and sleeves if you know you're going on a major wineberry gathering foray. Pick the fully ripe fruits (if you need to tug, the berry isn’t ripe) and place them in your collection container. Use a container rather than a bag so that the berries don't get smashed in transport.

Eating and Preserving Wineberries

Wineberries are lovely fresh, but they are also good in preserves and baked goods. Like all brambleberries, wineberries freeze well and make excellent jam and jelly.

The one thing that sounds obvious – making wine from wineberries – is something that I haven't tried yet. If you beat me to it, invite me over to sample some, okay?

Leda Meredith teaches foraging internationally and is the author of several books including The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles and  Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can find more of her recipes and food adventures on her blog and videos, and read all of Leda's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/7/2016

An old chicken, and the best of the garden.

Where I grew up, in North Wales, there was a large Italian population, left over from the prisonor-of-war camps during World War II. Many of the Italians had worked on the farms in the area during the war. When the war was over, a lot of them had fallen in love with local women, and decided to stay and make a permanent home there.

One of these men was Guiseppe. He had fallen in love with a Welsh woman, but most definitely not the climate or the cuisine. He built a huge greenhouse in the back garden of his cottage, and there he propagated the flavours of the South: aubergines (eggplant), tomatoes, bell peppers. The kind of vegetables that grow very reluctantly in the rainy hills of Wales.

He often came to our farm, and traded the produce he had grown with my mother. She would take the exotic vegetables that were rare, even in the supermarkets, and in return, we would catch a chicken for his pot.

The only problem was his laid-back southern planning. He would rarely tell us he was coming beforehand. instead, he would walk up the lane, staggering under the weight of a crate of tomatoes, and my mother and I would spend an hour or two chasing the doomed bird around the farm, with Guiseppe’s grandson, little Joey, gleefully "helping."

These chickens lived to lay another day, but they have been warned.

It was a brilliant system nonetheless, and one I think that all smallholders and gardeners should consider. Trading vegetables, or meat, or homebrewed wine allows everyone to enjoy a diversity of flavours that would take much effort to produce themselves. Best of all, unlike selling surplus produce, no one at the Tax Office needs to know about it.

Tips on Bartering

Here are some of my thoughts on how to make the transaction work for everyone:

1. Arrange in advance. Not only is it a pain to chase a chicken that has already been let out for the day, if you tell your home-brewing neighbour in mid-July that you would like to trade some vegetables for his beer, I guarantee you he has already grown very attached to his bottles, and mentally drunk them all. Tell him a few months in advance what you have planned, and he might be able to make some extra with you in mind.

2. Know the true value of what you are trading. It would have been easy for Guiseppe to have gone to the local supermarket, checked out the chickens and seen the cost was  about five pounds. But he knew that my mother’s birds were pastured, organic birds, and that is worth a whole lot more. That’s why he brought along such a big box of vegetables.

3. Don’t make assumptions. Because you traded once with a neighbour, don’t assume this will be an ongoing arrangement. Call ahead and check every time you have something to swap.

This recipe is a way of using the old birds that Guiseppe took home. When a chicken reaches the end of its productive life, or a cockerel goes vicious, the soup pot is the best place for it.The really interesting thing about the recipe is the use of bolted lettuce.

During summer, which gardener hasn’t struggled to keep on top of the harvest and found the lettuces grown tall and inedible? The French have a soup called chiffonade that is made with lettuce, and my mother-in-law let me in on a secret: She makes it with bolted lettuce. It may sound a little strange to cook lettuce, but don’t be discouraged, it is wonderful in this soup.

I served the soup with garlic puree. Wash the soil off bulbs of fresh young garlic and, leaving them whole, wrap in foil and bake in a moderate oven, or in the embers of a fire, for an hour. When they are finished, you can squeeze the delicious puree out of the cloves and mix with a little olive oil and sea salt.

It is not overpoweringly garlicky, and any leftovers can be spread on toast or mixed in a vinaigrette.

 Use all kinds of garden vegetables, even bolted lettuce

Chiffonade Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

• 1 boiling chicken
• bundle of pot herbs: onions, carrots, celery tops, bay leaves, parsley, whatever you have
• head of lettuce, bolted or not
• selection of garden vegetables. I used new potatoes and mangetout peas, but you can use whatever you have, as long as it is fresh and young; for example, baby leeks, broad beans or small turnips.

Young garlic makes a wonderful puree when roasted.

Directions:

1. Cut the chicken up into large pieces. Pack into a pot with salt and pepper, and add water to just cover. Bring slowly to the boil, and skim off any scum that forms. Turn the heat down, and allow to simmer for 2 hours.

2. Add the pot herbs, pushing them in around the chicken pieces. The ingredients should not be swimming around loosely, but packed quite closely in the pot, for a good concentrated flavour.

3. After an hour of additional cooking, check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour the whole thing through a colander lined with a clean cloth, catching all the broth in a big bowl underneath. Allow to cool.

4. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, strip the meat from the bones and cut into small pieces. Cut the carrots into chunks and set aside.

5. Clean out the pan and add a knob of butter. Shred the lettuce, and melt it in the butter. A lot of water will come out, and the volume will reduce enormously, so use more than you think you need.

6. Add the long-cooking vegetables to the pot and sauté for a few minutes. Now return the broth and the chicken pieces to the pan, and slowly simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Before serving, turn the heat up high, and add the quick-cooking vegetables, such as the mangetout, and the carrot reserved from making the stock.

Serve with crusty bread and the garlic puree.

Hannah Wernet grew up self-sufficiently on a sheep farm in Wales. When she was 20, she moved to Austria where she works as a teacher and owns a small expat bar. She dreams of one day returning to a self-sufficient life in the French countryside. Read all of Hannah's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



6/30/2016

corn in baskets

Freezing fruit and produce is one of the easiest ways to preserve the bounty for the colder months. Corn is especially yummy to pull out of the freezer during the winter as it can maintain its sweet fresh-picked goodness if done right. And, it's really easy to do.

Corn needs to be grown in a large stand to germinate well. Unlike many other crops, it isn't pollinated by the bees, but by the wind. Each silk coming out of the top leads directly down to a kernel so every strand needs to be pollinated individually.

After it is picked, it only takes 6 hours to turn from a sugar into a starch. That's why so many corn dishes eaten at restaurants taste starchy. But if you can get it into the freezer quickly, it keeps its sweet, sugary flavor.

Freezing Corn

I go to my local organic farm to be there when they open at 9am. I always ask if the corn is today's and they always answer "yes." So, I buy about 2½ dozen (they give 13 for a dozen) and head home.

I put the water on to boil in my steamer (you can also boil it) while I shuck it. This is best done outside as the silks seem to fly all over. I bring the corn in on a tray and I get a huge bowl. I fill a small cooler with ice. Then I put six ears in the steamer (or water) and set the timer for 3 minutes.

 corn in pot

I fill the bowl with cold water and throw in about six ice cubes. When the timer dings, I transfer the corn to the bowl.

 corn in ice

After it cools, I place the ears on the table. Using a sharp knife and a small bowl, I cut the kernels off the cob.

 cutting from cob

Then I transfer the corn into quart bags, seal and shape so that they will stack well.

 corn into bags

About three ears will fill one bag. And into the freezer they go! I get about eight quarts from this process. When I use the corn, I generally only take part of the bag. This whole process — from the minute I leave my house to get the corn until it is in the freezer — takes about 2 hours. I do it twice a summer. So, for 4 hours of work and very little money, I can have fresh-tasting corn all year long. It's delicious in soups, stir-fries and stews.

Freezing Berries

Berries are another easy to freeze option. I use an old yogurt container to which I have affixed a string to place around my neck. This leaves both hands free for picking.

 bluberry picking cup

Berries that grow on bushes like blueberries and blackberries don't even need to be washed (of course, I only pick organic). Many pick-your-own areas offer pretty good deals when their berries are ripe. Farmers also will often give discounts if their fruits are bought in bulk.

Get together with some friends and see if you can save some serious money. Once you have the berries home, place them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. That way each berry will freeze individually.

 berries on sheet

When you put them into bags, they stay separate. If you just put them into the bags right away, they will mush together and you won't be able to separate them for pancakes or muffins.

Spending just a little time getting ready for the cooler months will not only save you some serious money, but will make your winter much more fun. Now's the time!

Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.









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