Food Shortages... Part 2

Our 2020 Garden: Just in case this is your first year to grow a garden, I want to briefly take you through the various crops we grow (and preserve) to give you ideas so you can start to plan & implement right now!

These are perennials, so if you don’t already have berries growing at your place, you’ll need to get starts this spring and plant them, so that you’ll have berries beginning next year and on. Starting in late June/early July we had a huge crop of strawberries. We ate them fresh, but I also made many jars of scrumptious strawberry jam! Next came the raspberries--exceptionally large this year. I picked them in large batches, ran them through our Victorio strainer to remove the seeds, and then turned them into zesty raspberry jam. In previous years I almost always used Pomona Pectin for thickening when making jam, but this year I made my jams without added pectin. Most fruits are rich in pectin anyway, and by allowing them to cook down longer than usual, I found that I didn't even need the added pectin. Actually, the flavors of my jams were so much better and more intense than ever before! After the raspberries, I picked wild huckleberries and made jam with them.

All summer long, we enjoyed at least 5 or 6 types of wonderful fresh lettuce and greens--everything from arugula to crunchy Iceberg to butterhead types.

Once again, if you haven’t already planted fruit trees—as soon as possible this spring, get some and plant them (using the method shown in our DVD “Planting by the Blueprint”). It takes fruit trees several years to start producing, so you have no time to lose! By July, our Montmorency cherry trees were loading up and beginning to ripen, so I got out the hummingbird feeders. I filled them with the white sugar/water solution (4 parts water to 1 part sugar) and Craig placed one or two feeders in each cherry tree. Our little "security guards" did their job keeping the big birds away as usual, and I don't think we lost one cherry to birds this year. I began dehydrating cherries, as usual. Montmorency cherries are just the best ever for dehydrating, and we love them that way. But this year I had a problem. Dehydrating takes time, and I had way more cherries than usual--I needed to get lots of preserving done in a short time! So…I decided to can a good portion of the cherries this year. For breakfasts we often have fruit toast, and I figured that the canned cherries might be delicious served that way or in pies or pastries. Every few days I went to the orchard and picked cherries, then pitted and canned them. Normally I like to can fruits in their own juice, or in sweetened water, but since I was able to purchase some organic grape juice and organic black cherry juice, I used these juices. They turned out great! For a very wonderful and filling breakfast, all I have to do is to pour the juice from the jar into a saucepan, thicken it with a little flour or non-GMO cornstarch, add the cherries and warm it all up in the saucepan. Then toast some yummy bread--spread the bread with peanut or almond butter, and top with warm juicy cherries!

It's so wonderful to be able to harvest and preserve the fruits and vegetables from your own garden just as they ripen. Our Heavenly Father designed everything so perfectly--various types of produce ripen at different times, so it's not overwhelming. You can just keep up a steady pace as you preserve one variety at a time, often with nice short breaks in between! After cherries, I harvested hardneck Romanian garlic. The bulbs need to cure in a dry, airy place outdoors for several weeks and then can be trimmed and cleaned and stored in a cool place. Onions have to be cured also, but as long as it's not raining they can be pulled and laid on their sides right there in the garden for several weeks to cure, as the sun helps to dry out their outer layers.

Our heirloom tomatoes seemed to take a long time to get going this year. The corn took longer also, but both crops finally ripened and they were unbelievably delicious! Peaches & Cream is our favorite corn, but it's not an heirloom type, so I try to stock up on seed packets when I can. We ate and shared much of our fresh corn, but still had just a little bit to pressure can for wintertime soups/casseroles. We ate fresh tomato sandwiches until late November—now we have jars of canned roasted tomato sauce that we’re using for pasta sauce, pizza sauce and salsa.

As fall began, our garden was still going strong. So was the little orchard! We picked Honey Crisp and Gala apples, and using the Victorio strainer a good part of them became apple sauce. Soon Bartlett pears were ready--we've learned to pick them while they're still quite hard but once their color begins changing. If they're left on the tree until they start to soften, the pears will be gritty to taste. So using the Victorio strainer once again, once they softened sufficiently, our sweet-sweet Bartletts became sweet-sweet creamy pear sauce!

After the first light frost I got busy harvesting butter beans. Beans are "iffy" in our area, and since our summer was cool they didn't have a chance to produce a lot or to dry on the vines. So we ate what little we had fresh, and they were absolutely incredible. I was very thankful that our poblano and jalapeno peppers and eggplants survived the very first very light frost, and I harvested them just as soon as possible. I used the peppers in my canned salsa, and even though I could have dehydrated the eggplants, I chose to use them fresh in casseroles.

I wanted to wait until after the first few frosts to harvest the beets and carrots, as they become sweeter-tasting after the early frosts. We've never had great success with carrots, but this year was different. I grew carrots that were amazing colors, ranging from deep red to yellow, orange and even white. I harvested so many that I didn't know what to do with them! We don't particularly like canned carrots other than for vegetable soup, so I started searching online for recipes and for ways to preserve them fresh. Carrots can be preserved in the ground in southern regions, but that isn’t practical here. They can also be preserved in boxes with sand and kept in a cool place. But this year I learned something new--they also can be preserved for weeks in the refrigerator as long as they are stored submerged in water, which keeps them crisp. So, that's been a very interesting experiment for me this fall. I have plastic containers with lids that were perfect for the job, and that's where they went. From there I use them in recipes or "pickle them” and keep in the refrigerator. To do this, I make a solution of lemon juice, organic sugar, salt, water and sometimes ginger. I heat the pickling solution to a boil while I'm thinly slicing those colorful raw carrots into a wide-mouth pint jar, then cover them with the boiling solution. Once it all cools down, the carrots are still very crispy but now have a delicious taste. I store them in our refrigerator and we enjoyed them into December. I used a similar solution to preserve our beets in the fridge, however I did first cook the beets until they were tender--then poured the pickling solution over them. Once cool, they're stored in our refrigerator also along with the carrots and also pickled cucumbers.

Potatoes can be used in so many ways! They can be harvested early as small "new" potatoes (very delicious) or later on as full-grown potatoes--once the plants start to turn brown and shrivel a bit. From that point on you can harvest them clear up until a hard freeze. I harvest the potatoes by hand, filling boxes as I go down each row. The unwashed potatoes can be stored in the boxes in our cool room for the winter. Any cool area such as a garage or basement where the temperature doesn't get below freezing will work. And any potatoes still uneaten by next spring will become our "seed" potatoes.

SUMMARY: I'm so thankful that despite the pandemic and the "shortages” which began last spring, I still had time to grow and preserve food for this winter! I spent a lot more time this year collecting seeds from as many garden plants as I could. For years we’ve given seminars on preparing for what might come--we got a little taste of that this past year! I want to just recap some things I learned that I hope will be helpful--as none of us know what this next year might bring. I believe that we were very blessed to have a "practice run" you might say, this year. As a gardener and someone who believes in preparing, here's a short list of things that you might want to consider in preparation for your 2021 garden. I'd love to hear your ideas too!

  1. Order seeds NOW if you haven't already! I recommend Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds but get them wherever you can, and now!
  2. Make sure you have enough seed trays & pots to start enough seedlings for a larger than normal garden.
  3. Make sure you have potting soil for the trays.
  4. Purchase any fertilizers that you might need. Be sure to have a supply of soft rock phosphate, as fruit trees and gardens really thrive with this amendment. Get enough for future years also. Places that carry organic gardening supplies may have these amendments or may be able to order them for you.
  5. Purchase a seedling heat mat for good results when you start your early seedlings indoors (mine is called the "Super Sprouter" brand).
  6. Purchase grow lights if you need more indoor sunlight for your seed trays.
  7. If you don't have your own supply of seed potatoes you might want to buy organic potatoes and keep them in a cool place, then let them start sprouting early in the spring so they'll be ready to plant as soon as your soil is workable.
  8. Purchase hummingbird feeders and a supply of plain white sugar (the ratio is 4 parts water: 1 part sugar) for the feeding solution. You'll need to refill the feeders every few days or so for a few weeks before the fruit is fully ripe and continue on until all the fruit has been harvested.
  9. Try to find canning jars/supplies anywhere you can, if you don't have enough. It takes a lot of jars if you're needing to feed your family without depending upon the grocery for a long period of time.
  10. Purchase staples (salt, sugar, flour, oil, yeast, rice, dried beans, etc.) and also purchase commercially canned goods to supplement your home canned foods.
  11. Purchase wheat berries and get a grain mill if you don't already have one. If you run out of purchased flour, you can grind your own and make delicious homemade bread and other baked goods.
  12. If you need to learn more about gardening, growing fruits, and preserving your fresh produce and how to plan for a yearly supply of food--check out the incredibly practical and educational videos and books that we've been producing for many years: Sustainable Preparedness Online Store.