Growing Food for Winter Meals

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Last weekend I was invited to do a short presentation on growing food to feed yourself year round . So why plant the crops I will talk about? They can be either stored in a cool garage, frozen or canned so you can eat them all winter long. This lessens your footprint on the food chain and you only have to go into your garage or freezer to get what you want.  

Growing Food for Winter Meals

These potatoes were freshly harvested. How are they different from the ones at the store? Yes, they are dirty. Potatoes must never be washed before storing or they could rot. I like to grow potatoes as a late season crop. If harvested early they can start to sprout in the garage. I will be growing some Kennebec potatoes as they store better than most. The best place to store potatoes is in the ground. You want to harvest the last of the potatoes before a hard frost. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Here is a cucumber plant that I grew in a container. Last year I had 70 pounds of cucumbers from six plants in a raised bed. The problem is you can’t freeze cucumbers. So what did I do with so many cucumbers? I made hamburger relish. You can also use cucumbers to make pickles that you can eat all winter long. Can you store them fresh? No you can’t, so you really need to plan what you will be doing with your harvest. If you don’t know how to preserve it, perhaps grow only one plant. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

 Pumpkins are great for not only jack-o-lanterns but for eating as well. When choosing a pumpkin to grow read the label to see if it’s a good eating pumpkin. Who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? You can cook your pumpkins and freeze the flesh for future use.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Maybe you want to make some pumpkin soup. Looks yummy!

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Do you recognize this plant? Since most of us shop at the grocery store we often don’t get a chance to see what this plant looks like. We often don’t see the long green stems on this plant if we don’t grow them ourselves. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

This may be a better photo as its cleaned up a bit here. Yes, its an onion. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

This is what we see in the store. Here the onions have been cured which means they were laid out to dry in the shade on large trays. The tops were removed, the soil brushed off and sent to the stores when ready. Onions are a good crop to grow and store easily in your cool garage over the winter. I never have to buy onions unless I don’t grow enough.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Cabbage is a wonderful crop to harvest in the fall. When lettuce goes up to $4 per head why not switch to making coleslaw? Cabbage must be stored in a cool garage. This cabbage is quite large with lots of big leaves. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Here is what cabbage looks like when you get it at the store. All the outer leaves are removed and composted. It’s quite wasteful what we don’t eat. Cabbage can be stored over the winter as well. Harvest it late in the season. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Lettuce is one crop that you can only eat fresh. You can’t freeze it, can it  or dry it so why grow it? I grow a small amount of lettuce but its important to make sure you plant some cabbage for a fall crop. Did you know homegrown lettuce will store and keep fresh in your fridge for almost a month. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

It’s not like store-bought lettuce which barely lasts a week. The only reason I grow my own little row of lettuce is so I can avoid plastic. Plastic is something we need to be more aware of when we shop.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Carrots are great for storing. Like potatoes they are best stored in the ground and used as you need them. You can actually plant carrots in late summer to last you into the winter months. If it is supposed to freeze you can harvest the crop and store in a box of sand in the garage. You will need to trim the top off but don’t wash the carrots before storing.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

 You may not know what this crop is. Any guesses? 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

This is my garlic being cured. Garlic has layers of paper covering it and those layers need to dry out so it stores well. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Here is a garlic I harvested last July. Yes, its been nine months and its a good keeper in the garage. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Peas are an easy first time crop but you have to grow a lot to have a good supply for winter eating. It’s a great crop to grow if you have children as they love to snack from the garden. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Kale is one of the hardiest crops you can grow in the garden. It is very nutritious and lasts all winter long. One plant can feed two people all winter.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Anyone know what these are? I get asked all the time what this funny looking plant is. You can grow Brussel sprouts right into December. They taste better once the frost has hit them.

Growing Food for Winter Meals

 I love spinach but I prefer to eat it fresh. You can plant this in early spring and again in the fall for late harvests. It can be frozen but I prefer it fresh. It can be frozen and used in lasagna, as it is or in that wonderful spinach dip we all love. 

Beans, even though it freezes well, is the one vegetable that uses the most water. As our climate warms we need to be aware of how we use our water. Perhaps we grow a shorter beans instead of the six-foot high pole beans. Less leaf surface means less water to keep the plant alive. I found in growing beans in the greenhouse this year that they couldn’t go 24 hours without water. If I decide to grow beans this year it will be a french fillet koala bean that grows 10″ tall. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

We need to think about what we waste. This potato would never be sold in the stores because it isn’t perfect. It still tastes the same. Why do we expect perfection? Is it really responsible to throw food like this away? 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Think about planting to save water in the garden. Using plants to shade the soil will help.This is a three sisters garden where each plant has a supporting role. The corn is planted first allowing the beans to grow up its stalk. It is followed by squash that covers the soil with its huge leaves. Shading the soil allows for less watering.  Squash is one of the easiest plants to grow if you have room. One plant can take up ten feet of space. Its harvested in the fall and stored in a cool garage on trays that allow it to breathe. The good thing about squash is that its growth habit with its large leaves covers the soil. This helps to prevent water loss and erosion. 

Growing Food for Winter Meals

Plant close together to get the most out of your garden. If you harvest a crop always plan to have something else go into that space. Never have a bare spot in the garden. 

So thinking about what we talked about so far. Choose seeds to plant that will give you a harvest that can be stored in a cold garage, canned or frozen. Select seeds of crops that will store well. Plant wisely to save water. 

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