By late August, a good portion of the produce we harvest is meant to put up for the winter (vs. sell to the restaurants). The challenge becomes getting everything to a point where it can be shelf stable before any form of rot or mold sets in. It’s a bit of a race in slow motion, where what you are really battling is putting off shelling beans, cleaning gourds or drying out vegetables, as each of these tasks could give watching paint dry a run for it’s money. But it has to be done, and so we are doing it.
The basement is filled with pie pumpkins and butternut squash, all awaiting a rub down in slightly bleach-y water to kill off any bacteria or fungus that may rot them from the outside. We coaxed my little brother and his girlfriend into helping us out on a recent visit, and I’m embarrassed to report that the washing they did is the only progress we’ve made on this front, with all these bushels awaiting us.
The table on the back porch is covered with drying corn – blue for meal and black for popcorn. It needs to be separated from the cob soon.
The front porch chairs are loaded with red and yellow onions, curing until their outside skins get papery.
The porch itself is awash in cayenne peppers that, once dried up, will get tossed in the coffee grinder and used for seasoning.
The buffet in the dining room is festooned with half gallon mason jars full of black eyed peas, big red ripper beans and some other shiny pink bean for whom we cannot recall the varietal. Cookie sheets are loaded with the most recently shelled of each so they can air dry before being put away for future meals.
I’ve mentioned this before, but Will and I are ecstatic over the beans, as if they were a symbol of homesteading and self reliance. Maybe because it so so irrational to grow field peas in this day and age, when toiling for an hour to produce a half pound of something that costs less than $5/lb. certified organic would be viewed by most as nothing more than a preposterous waste of time and (garden) space. But they’re our beans. And somehow that sense of accomplishment makes it worth the labor.
Of course, whenever anyone comes over as of late, we set them up with a bushel of beans and a bowl for shelling (so they, too, can share is this experience… or something). So far we’ve roped in my mom and our dear friend Vickie, and hoppin’ john is owed to both (although my mother may be the only Italian ever to refuse to eat beans, something I will never understand).
Just this morning, Will and Adam (another friend helping us out down here since Jon left – did I mention Jon left? Stupid Yale…) harvested a half bushel of peanuts, and I have no space left for them to cure. They are currently residing in the mudroom with the last of the unshelled beans.
The downside of all this drying is when it rains. And the forecast for the next week calls for nothing but that, so now our kitchen is playing host to a party that was scheduled for the out of doors. Oh, our dehydrating bounty….