The Pantry

| No Comments
Autumn is here and the leaves are at their peak of fiery reds and muted yellows. The garden is in the clean-up stage, with beds to be turned and weeds still to be routed out. Nights have been turning colder, with the promise of frosts and snow to come. But we're ready for it as I have been storing away my harvest in a well-stocked pantry.

It's been a long time since I had a garden. When my wife and I lived in Boston, we joined a community garden for a couple of years, but the soil was not great and it would have taken a lot of fertilizer and new soil to get it to produce anything other than a few struggling tomatoes and carrots. The herb plot did well, but I never could figure out why the catnip always looked stunted and half-chewed -- that is until the day I found the neighborhood cat rolling in the middle of it. No, the best I could do was grow a few container plants on a shaded back porch of the apartment where we lived.

Here in Chesterville my garden plot hadn't been used in years, and the soil had been well-rested. Turning the soil in the spring was a challenge, but I borrowed my neighbor's gas-powered tiller and spent hours going around the garden plot until it was ready for planting. My arms ached for days after, but it was worth it.

The garden did better than I ever expected in its first year. Snow peas, green beans, two types of carrots, radishes and lettuce, twelve kinds of tomatoes, butternut and acorn squash, eleven different pepper plants and two types of pumpkins. Not to mention the pleasant surprise of four large rhubarb plants growing behind the barn this past spring. And then there was the unexpected bonus of horseradish growing in clumps in the field surrounding the garden.

With old farmhouses there is almost always a pantry of some kind, and this one is no exception. It's long and narrow, with shelves floor to ceiling; it was one of the features of the house that attracted us last December. When we first moved in we used it for storing our kitchen gadgets and boxes of stuff we'd sort out later. As summer and the garden progressed, it was clear the pantry had to get reorganized. It was time to start preparing for winter.

We didn't do a lot of canning when I was growing up on our farm in the Adirondacks. It was a time when farmers were advised not to grow their own food gardens -- after all, food was cheap enough in the supermarkets and farmers could focus on one cash crop. But I learned the art of canning over the years in Boston and kept small amounts in our small apartment pantry there.

So, over the late summer and early fall this year, we picked and processed beans and peas and bought local corn for the freezer in the shed. Tomatoes took over the enameled counter of our old Hoosier-style cabinet, and what we couldn't eat right away were turned into 'sun-dried' tomatoes (from our dehydrator) and jars of prepared pasta sauce. Store-bought cherries and peaches were turned into jams and peach slices. Rhubarb was canned in early summer in anticipation of pies to come in winter, when the snow starts piling up. Plums from our neighbors' tree were turned into jams of various kinds, as well as large jars of whole plums waiting to be used at a later date. Squash line one section of the shelves and pumpkins are strategically placed on the floor.

So now the pantry is packed with food for the winter. The snow will come, as it always does here in Maine, but we'll be enjoying warm bits of summer every time we walk into the pantry and grab a bag of dried apple slices or a ruby colored jar of jam off the shelf. That makes all the effort of digging and weeding and harvesting worth it.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by JeffAdminist published on January 21, 2009 12:22 AM.

It's a Wonderful Life? was the previous entry in this blog.

Harvest of Autumn Leaves is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.