Here on the farm we are entering the season of Putting Food By. It is a long season, and a hectic season, the urgency compounded by the fact that it is also the Hot and Heavy Haying Season, the Little Bit More Fall Planting Season, the Everlasting Weeding Season, and the Intense Harvesting Season. The tomato harvesting alone can take up to twelve hours a week. Then there's the beets and carrots and lettuce and scallions and eggplant and green and red and hot peppers and kale and chard. And, of course, there's the exuberant yellow squash, zucchini, and cucumbers, which must be picked every other day, Or Else.
Or Else? Or Else we are inundated in the farm kitchen with giant zucchini, massive yellow squash, and portly cucumbers. These are vegetables that any CSA member in his or her right mind wouldn't dream of taking from the surplus-and-sharing tray, especially on top of the five pleasantly sized zucchini, four yellow squash, and several cucumbers that might be in the regular share for the week.
Still, despite our best efforts to keep the food flowing to the people, and not inundating the kitchen, we still must Put Food By. No longer can we say, “Oh, it's faaaarr too early in the season to start freezing or canning or drying anything at all.” Now we must buck up and buckle down, making marinara sauce and zucchini soup and blobs of frozen Swiss Chard for the winter months.
Now we must say firmly to one another, “It's just as important to Put Food By as it is to do all this other weeding and harvesting and planting and haying. It's part of the whole sustainable farming picture. Right?” This speech tends to happen at 8 or 8:30 at night, after a full day in the garden, when we might be faced with an enormous bag of basil that has to turn into delicious pesto for the winter.
There are some evenings that the only turning that happens is the turning into bed, because we two farmers are just too worn out. Then the next morning we hope that the fine enormous bag of basil will hold one more day, so that we can have the Putting Food By Speech again at 8 or 8:30 that night, and actually accomplish the pesto.
And we must accomplish the pesto, because in August and September the household has a law in effect: the Putting Food By law, which translates to One Act of Preservation a Day! It might be a small act of preservation, such as chopping up a bunch of parsley, and freezing it, or it might be a big one: canning 14 pints of tomato sauce, plus a little batch of raspberry jam, since we've already got the water in the canner boiling, plus some hot peppers in vinegar, since, yeah, we've already got the water boiling. . . Too, if we put by more than one thing a day, that surely counts as One Act of Preservation a Day! for multiple days, giving us a little leeway with the law, and, yes! a little leeway with early bedtime.
Luckily, since we are rather weary farmers this time of year, leniency of any kind will suffice: often the basil or the tomatoes or the squash will hold one more day . . . and maybe one more day . . . one more . . . and then there is always the Great, Merciful, and Compassionate Compost Pile, which turns a crime of Food-Wasting into a Potential Marvelous Crop of Vegetables for the Next Garden Season. Oh, all that miraculous Compost Clemency! It surely gives us sweet dreams in this busy, sleepy season of Putting Food By.
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Aug 5-Aug 11, 2015