Small Scale Farming: Storing Fruits and Vegetables

In this excerpt from their book on small scale farming, the authors discuss several methods of storing fruits and vegetables.

| March/April 1976

  • 038 small scale farming 02 blackcurrants
    Bottling is an effective method of storing blackcurrants, if you're growing them in your small scale farming operation.
  • 038 small scale farming 01 peas
    Peas reportedly freeze well, but the author believes freezing degrades the pleasure of eating them fresh.
  • 038 small scale farming 03 cucumbers
    Pickling is an excellent way to store gherkins.
  • 038-036-01-freezing-of-vege
    Making sauerkraut is an excellent way to store cabbage for the winter. 

  • 038 small scale farming 02 blackcurrants
  • 038 small scale farming 01 peas
  • 038 small scale farming 03 cucumbers
  • 038-036-01-freezing-of-vege

Ah, the vicissitudes of time. Four years ago, when there were no currently relevant small scale farming introductory handbooks available, many of us welcomed the publication of Richard Langer's Grow It! with open arms. Now that we're all older and more experienced, however, some folks find it increasingly easy to criticize that breakthrough beginner's guide.

Which brings us to another breakthrough book that is just as important (probably more so) now as Grow It! was four years ago, and which may well come up for its share of criticism in another 24 months or so. Be that as it may, John and Sally Seymour's record of 18 successful years on a 5-acre homestead in England is important now and should offer welcome encouragement to today's back-to-the-landers, both real and imaginary.MOTHER EARTH NEWS has been serializing their book, Farming for Self-Sufficiency. This installment deals with storing fruits and vegetables. Many readers will no doubt want a personal copy for their home libraries.

Copyright © 1973 by John and Sally Seymour, Introduction copyright © 1973 by Schocken Books, Inc.    

Vegetable Storage

It Is very hard to imagine, Indeed, what anyone should want ice for, in a country like this, except for clodpole boys to slide upon, and to drown cockneys In skiting-time.William Cobbett   

From which remark one gathers that Cobbett would not have been a great exponent of the deep freeze. We have a deep freeze now, but personally I think it is a misuse of this instrument to use it for the storage of vegetables. The reason for this is that, in the British Isles at least, it is possible to have good fresh vegetables from the garden all the year round, and it is far better to "enjoy the fruits of the earth in their season" than to try and prolong the seasons of vegetables by freezing them into some horrible mush in plastic bags in a freezer. The reason why asparagus tastes so marvellous when you first get your teeth into it late in April or early in May, when you have just begun to get sick of spring cabbage, is that you have not tasted it for eleven months. If you had it every few days out of a deep freeze it would be old hat—there would be no freshness about it. This applies to peas, too, which I am told "freeze well"; when fresh they are a great gastronomic experience (if they are garden peas—not blue bullets from the greengrocers), and it is a crime to keep nibbling peas all winter, thus doing yourself out of the great treat of eating them in the summer time when they come ripe as a fresh experience. I am not talking about dried peas, which are an entirely different kettle of fish.

Runner Beans

People freeze runner beans. They are crazy in their heads. I have eaten frozen runner beans and they are not a patch on salted ones. Runner beans are things you can quite justifiably store, because if you have planted them properly you will have such a glut that you will eventually get tired of them, and they store so cheaply and easily. Pick them when they are young and green (not old and stringy), slice them (we do it with a little bean slicer that screws on the table), lay them in layers in a big crock with 1 lb. salt to 3 lbs. beans and pack tight to exclude air. When the crock is full cover it up. If they go bad you have not put enough salt in them. When you want runner beans, some time in the winter when the weather is foul and you don't feel like going out into the snow to pick Brussels sprouts, pull a handful out of the salt, wash under the tap for an hour and then boil. You can hardly tell the difference between salted runners and fresh. I know this goes against the "fruits of the earth in their season" philosophy, but I think an exception should be made in the case of runner beans. It is good always to have some green vegetables available no matter what the weather.

Root Vegetables

Root vegetables of course should be stored, for the idea of the swollen root (or stem as it is in some cases) is just that—to store the summer's goodness for the winter time. We have discussed clamping under potatoes, but I will recapitulate it here. Pile any root vegetable in a long pyramidal heap, cover the heap well with straw or bracken (a foot thick at least), cover that with earth which you pat on hard with a spade. Leave straw sticking out at the bottom about every two yards to let air in, and little straw chimneys sticking out of the ridge at the top every two yards to let the air out. Most roots don't like frost, and the clamp protects them from it. If you have a good dry root cellar, or really frost-proof outbuilding, you might use them instead: less work than clamping. Potatoes don't like light (it makes them green and inedible). Parsnips don't mind frost—in fact they taste better after having been frosted: leave them out where they grow and dig them as you want them. A disadvantage of the root cellar or indoor store is that you can get a build-up, after a year or two, of spores which attack the roots you keep there. Clamps avoid this trouble, and personally I prefer them.

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