Almost free food

The savings from planting a garden is significant, especially if you prefer organic or using organic methods even if not certified, and if you prefer local so you know it is fresh and hasn’t been shipped across the country or from another country. There are some things you can’t grow in your climate, I understand that. I can’t grow avocados and bananas for example, but we like them both. My garden isn’t large enough to provide all of the potatoes, onions, greens, beans, and peas we eat in one year, but large enough to enjoy fresh and put some by through freezing, canning, or fermenting.

Toward the end of winter, maybe early spring, I bought a 5 pound bag of basic organic white potatoes from the grocer. Organic produce is usually not sprayed to suppress sprouting or over ripening, and this particular sack of potatoes began sprouting almost in the car on the way home. We don’t eat a lot of potatoes, so the bag was tucked under the sink where it would be out of the light and each time I took a couple of from the sack, I had to untangle the sprouts and pare the sprouted eyes from the potatoes. I finally gave up when there were 4 or 5 left in the bag, and as soon as the soil was warm enough this spring, I cut those potatoes so that each section had two sprouting eyes and set them on a tray to dry for a day, then planted them in a 4 by 8 foot bed in the garden. I didn’t expect much, they weren’t seed potatoes, just grocery store ones. Every piece I planted came up and the bed was a thick mass of greenery and pretty purple flowers, then the heat came, their season ending and they died back. I had read you should leave them in the ground for a week or so after they die back, but for the past three days we have had some intense thunder storms and a fair amount of rain. I didn’t want them to grow and then rot in the ground, so in a light sprinkle yesterday afternoon, I took the same blue plastic compost bucket over and dug potatoes with a garden fork and my hands. Those 4 or 5 potatoes left to sprout in the sack, produced about 12-14 pounds of potatoes. I don’t know what a good return on potatoes is, but these are basically free food, potatoes that were beyond my use for cooking, providing many weeks of food for our shelves.

I never have to buy pickles. One package of cucumber seed for a couple of dollars will provide plants for 3 or 4 seasons, giving us fresh cucumbers and plenty to make into the Spicy Bread and Butter, Dill quarters, and fermented dill slices.

Generally the 6 to 9 tomato plants I plant will provide tomato sauce for pasta, chili, or other cooked tomato needs, as well as pizza sauce to last the year or nearly so.

Hubby loves a pickled jalapeno with most dinner meals and on some sandwiches, and the plants provide enough for me to can a year’s worth. I never buy hot sauce, instead, hot peppers are ground and fermented to make enough for my cooking and condiments and usually enough to share a bottle or two with Son 1 and his family.

The garlic I grow will usually last the year or close to it. Onions will last for months before I have to start buying them. Peas and beans are eaten fresh and extras frozen for when the fresh foods aren’t available. So the $25-30 I spend on seed and plants provide many meals throughout the year.

The hens still aren’t producing like they did last year, but the three Oliver eggers all started laying again. I have gotten a pink egg and a blue egg this week along with a couple green eggs.

One very dirty hand from digging potatoes.

I hope that by planting a fall garden this year, that we will save even more with carrots, spinach, fall peas, and whatever other short season plants I can put in and protect from fall insects and first frosts.

6 thoughts on “Almost free food”

  1. J & D > What a delightful read! It’s not just about the savings, though, is it? There’s also the independence, achievement, experience, skill, judgement, the variety. There’s also continuity, as growing and making food is a cultural good that’s passed on from one generation to the next … and, nowadays, across oceans and continents ! We wish you happy canning/preserving, and an abundance of goodness. J&D

    1. No, not just about savings. I love the garden work, the fresh food, and my efforts have one of my granddaughters interested in gardening now. Her Mom and I started her garden last year when it was safe to be around others and she and her Mom added to it this year with my online guidance and planning help.

  2. Here is a good way to store your potatoes in the winter. I get 5 bales of straw. I make a box with four of them. I open the 5th bale and spread a layer of straw in the box. Then I layer it with potatoes that don’t touch each other. Another layer of straw, then of potatoes, continuing until I’m done. I finish with a thick layer of straw. I cover it all with a piece of plywood. I put it in a place where it won’t get rained on. I have tried this method in Northern Idaho and in the Arizona desert. It has worked well in both places.

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