View from the Garden: I Eat Local Because I Can!

My parents grew up during the Great Depression. Growing and preserving food was taken for granted and this is what my family and most of my relatives did in the summer. I learned to can, freeze and store food as a girl. Many days were spent at my mother’s side peeling, washing and cutting. My mother and grandmother split bushels of peaches and apricots and the women all shared their excess vegetables with each other. At the end of summer, the storage room was full of jars, potatoes, onions and squash and the freezer was full, ready for winter with the flavors of summer.

The Union Square Farmers Market opened when I still lived in the city years ago—it was a wonder! Every Saturday I bicycled from SoHo with baskets on my bicycle and on my back to bring home the goodies. I made jam, jelly, chutney, apple and pumpkin butters, dilled green beans, pickled beets. I canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. I froze (I had a deep freezer in the loft) green beans, green peppers, corn, leeks, herbs, berries and even tomatoes… As I got to know the farmers, I ordered bulk vegetables. I had a good supply of the “fresh tastes of summer” in my New York larder and great gifts for Christmas. I even made a cold storage by fastening an insulated cabinet to the front door of the apartment that had holes drilled into it.

Canning and freezing food can be intimidating until you have a basic knowledge but it is worth the effort: a connection to the past, an immediate sense of accomplishment as those beautiful jars are cooling off and the products of your effort to be enjoyed later.

We are very fortunate to have the Hallockville Museum Farm on the North Fork where past farming life and practices persevere. There are many opportunities there to learn about a way of life that is not as far removed in time as it may seem. There are hours for visiting and classes in several subjects….they even have cows, chickens and sheep and they are getting a pig!

Mark Vosburg, who does a lot of work with the Hallockville Museum, gives talks at the museum and local libraries about food preservation. His classes introduce the beginner to home food processing and further inform the more practiced. Vosburg became interested in canning after he enjoyed a taste of home canned bread and butter pickles while visiting family in Tennessee. He began preserving food as a hobby but after finishing an intensive course at Cornell, became a Certified Master Food Preserver. He likes eating the food in winter but also feels strongly about the other benefits of processing one’s own food: supporting local farmers, the taste and nutrition of home processed food and the reduction of packaging and shipping waste. He is giving talks and some hands-on classes as follows;

August 2, Hallockville Museum Farm, Riverhead, 631-298-5292

August 7, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor 631-725-004

August 11, Brookhaven Free Library, Brookhaven 631-286-1923

August 13, Center Moriches Library, Center Moriches 631-286-1923

August 21 and 23 Hallockville Museum Farm, Riverhead 631-298-5292

Call for times and other details.

Learning about food preservation from Vosburg is a unique opportunity. He is passionate, extremely knowledgeable and experienced. It is rare to find someone like this who is eager to share this information with the public. If you are interested in food preservation but are intimidated, you might like to attend one of Vosburg’s talks and find out how to begin simply. I am looking forward to hearing him speak at the Sag Harbor library.

More and more produce from gardens and farmers will be available in these next weeks; tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, corn, fruit. Some vegetables can be frozen with little effort and making jam is a good way to begin learning about canning. As you know, the taste of locally grown produce is far superior to food from the grocery store. To have some in the “cold dark days of winter” and to know you have added to the sustainability of our environment with your effort are very good rewards.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067. jeanellemyersfinegardening.com Myers is also an artist—her show “Plains Reverie” is on display at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor and runs through August 5. For more info, visit caniosbooks.com

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