Putting by

An archaic term that means to set aside; to save. The term was used in many old households to mean storing and preserving of provisions for the cold non productive months. Before the introduction of home freezers, much of this putting by was drying, salting, smoking, fermenting, and canning with procedures that give the USDA shuddering nightmares.

And now we have the huge grocery stores that ship in “fresh” produce out of season from thousands of miles away. Produce that has been genetically altered to make it shelf stable for far longer than it takes to move it across the country or from other countries to your table. And commercial canning allows aisles of produce of every description packed in metal cans lined with suspect plastics for your ease in food preparation. So many people, don’t even know how food is grown or where.

I have always in my adult life had a garden of some sort, if only a few feet of tomatoes and peppers off the patio of a townhouse, and I made Pomegrante jelly once a year with my Dad, an afternoon that I looked forward to every year as we improved on the technique each year. But when we bought our farm property and I moved across the state to work for the last few years before retirement and to help with babysitting so Son 1 and DIL could work on our house, or spending an evening or weekend day helping put up interior siding, making floor wax, or other assistance I could provide, my outlook on food changed. During this time, I discovered a program that Virginia Tech was doing where the entire Freshman class was assigned a book to read for discussion. The year I moved, the book was the recently published, Animal Vegetable Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver about her family’s attempt to eat only local, seasonally available food that they grew or could purchase at their local Farmer’s Market. I purchased the book, devoured it and it changed my whole outlook on the food system. Son 1 and DIL had put in a huge garden on the farm, and once living here, I have added fruit trees, vines, and canes as well as chickens for eggs. I made a point to get to know the vendors at our Farmer’s Market, what they provide, how they manage their farms, and what will be available when. I maintain a much smaller garden than the kids put in, located many wild berry patches, learned to make soap and healing salves, and set a goal to “put by” as much as I can to reduce our footprint and reduce the amount of food and other goods that come into our home from thousands of miles away, packaged in containers that may or may not be recyclable.

Not everything that goes on our shelves or in our freezer is grown here, but it is grown locally if possible. Meats, cheeses, vegetables I don’t grow, fruits when mine fail. Beans and peas are frozen in the spring and summer. Berries and fruit are turned into jams and sauces. Tomatoes are canned as pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or tomatoes to be used in chili or other recipes. Hot peppers are canned, pickled or dried to be used throughout the year until the next crop. Sweet peppers are diced or sliced and frozen. Butter and cheese are stockpiled during the productive season for the winter, most of the meats are available year round. We tend to eat more seasonally now, not to the extent that was accomplished in the book, but certainly more so than before I read it.

Once of the produce vendors at the Farmer’s Market has a CSA program with different tiers. The one I chose, I get to select what I want in the quantity I want as long as I spend a certain amount. Right now eggplant is in season. I can’t grow eggplant to save me. Everytime I plant it, the flea beetles feast, so I buy mine from them. I’m not a fan of frozen eggplant, but making a casserole and freezing it, or fermenting a few jars of it when it is available is an option. The same for asparagus, I don’t like them frozen or canned, so they are enjoyed in season and a couple jars pickled for later.

Last week’s CSA had two eggplants in my selection. One was made into Eggplant Parmesan made with locally made parmesan and mozarella. Half was eaten and enjoyed, the second half frozen for some other meal in the future. The second eggplant is being fermented to enjoy on a pickle plate or on a salad.

The eggplant ferment needs a smaller jar. Off to the basement to see what is available. Not everyone can grow their own, but we can all make an effort to support what is local, to support the farmer’s you can get to know.

I would love to hear your comments on this post.