Local Food All Year Starts Now!

The weekend farmers markets are upon us again and I am already thinking about what I am going to be buying. I imagine bartering for the huge, unpriced box of pickling cucumbers sitting under someone's market table. Will 30 heads of garlic really be enough. How much kale is too much? If I buy 10 boxes of beans, will I get a deal or just a funny look.


No, I'm not planning a party, but almost as soon as the summer begins, I start to squirrel food away. This year, it started with strawberries. Both from my own plants and from the local market, I managed to slice and freeze about 3 gallons of strawberries. I totally missed out on peas, but I intend not to let bean season pass without doing some late night blanching, freezing and pickling. 


Many of you, saavy readers are probably about ready to skip down to something more enlightening, I know. But stick with me. I'm not some crazed the-end-of-the-world-is-near sort of hoarder. No, I simply am on a mission to send more money to local farmers in trade for a larder stocked with amazingly tasty and good foods. What I hope to convey, is that while you are boiling away in the August heat, it is the perfect time to be thinking about January.


You see, we all need little reminders about what happens every year in the middle of Winter or early Spring and I don't mean ice fishing or trips to Equatorial lands. I'm referring to the sad state of upper Midwestern food, especially produce. We don't have to buy green beans and peppers from foreign lands or pay a hefty price for questionable frozen fruit and vegetables, but inevitably we all will unless we take action now and act like many responsible farmers I know (you can guess whose vegetables they are eating all winter long). Yes, it is time to stock those freezers and pantry shelves, because before you know it, things go out of season and disappear for...gasp...a whole year.


My goal is to inspire you to do something, anything that might save a bit of summer sunshine in the form of stored food, because I believe that everyone can do something. Let me explain. I know that canning isn't for everyone and nor should it be. If everyone I know tried to operate a pressure canner, there would most likely need to be a day of mourning shortly thereafter...please people (you know who you are) buy your pickles. Or, consider other avenues. I know it sounds simple minded, but freezing is a fine option and I know for a fact that it is underutilized. There is also the option to make refrigerator pickles or to try steam bath canning, much simpler and more approachable options. Finally, dehydration is another great option.


At this point, I will try and convey a bit of what I have learned, but I want to lean on you, dear readers, to use the comment section below to help further our knowledge base and encourage each other. Together, we are stronger.



Simple right. Kind of. It can also be amazingly simple to ruin really good food. With just a bit of thought and foresight, you can freeze almost anything. First, make sure you have space. It may take simply throwing away all of those tiny bits of leftovers that are crammed into your freezer and have become unrecognizable. For those ambitious types, it may mean buying a quiet and efficient chest freezer for your basement. 

Second, having appropriate freezing containers, be they bag or bin, will really help, especially in keeping the freezer burn off. Vaccum sealers can be wonders.

Now, let's say just a bit about technique. Stop freezing things in huge masses. I should really start a movement, but I have faith that most folks know this already. All it takes is freezing your fruits and veggies on trays, before you bag them. Push all of the air out of the bags. Doing all of the above keeps them separate and much more manageable, not to mention more tasty and stable. Plus, its really hard to stack (and identify) things frozen in balls, chunks or mounds.

Also important is understanding whether something should be processed before it is frozen. Here I am talking about the following options:

  • Trimming/pitting
  • Cutting
  • Washing
  • Drying
  • Blanching
  • Sauteing

Of course most things need to be trimmed and cleaned, but don't forget to dry things a bit. Super important if you want foods to keep for longer and not be loaded with ice. Then, consider whether you need to slice or chop the soon-to-be-frozen item. We all know how much fun it is to cut frozen food. Finally, consider whether the item needs to be cooked. Many foods actually benefit from cooking before freezing. Blanching green beans is a great example. Dip those beans in a bit of boiling water and then cool them quickly before freezing and you will have a nice, snappy bean. Skip the blanching and when you thaw them, you end up with wrinkly, soft beans...mmmmmm. Mushrooms are another immediate freezing fail unless you cook them. If I have a big mushroom find, I know that I can saute them and freeze them. Not only are they great when reheated, but ready to eat! Greens are another common item that benefit from cooking. I currently have spinach and turnip greens all cooked down and frozen to use when needed.

Check out this short article about vacuum sealing for freezing!



Dehydration is a fun and interesting process, unless it is happening to you. I love my food dehydrator and use it for making "sun dried tomatoes", dried apple slices, fruit leathers, veggie chips and a slew of other items. I've even dried those darned zucchinis that show up everywhere (they dried up a lot and were kind of funny, but ok added to soups and sauces.)


Pickling, canning and fermentation

For this section, I will simply refer you to past articles that have done a great job on these topics and recommend a couple of fantastic books on the topics:

A Canner's Manifesto

Quick Pickles/Refrigerator pickles


Cranberry Apple Jam

Pressure cookers

Canning Tomatoes

Oil Preserved Eggplant

The Fresh Girl's Guide to Easy Canning and Pickling by Ana Micka

Putting Food By, by Hertzberg, Vaughan and Greene

Food in Jars: A Canning Blog


The Stick-it-in-your-basement Method

I know it may seem too technical, but I often just put boxes and boxes of potatoes, squash, onions and garlic in a nice cool dark spot in my basement. I think last year, I bought 60 pounds of potatoes...and they were still gone by Christmas. However, the 50 heads of garlic made it all the way until April!

The Urban Cellar has some more insight on making a basement spot for storing away your local vegetables. 


So, I hope you all go out and support your local farmers even more now with the hope of good, local food this winter. If the task still seems to daunting, buy some beverages, invite a bunch of friends over and throw a canning or freezing party . Its amazing what a house full of people can get done in an hour. Go for it, you won't be sorry. And again, let us know how you keep local food all year round.



Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at Simple, Good, and Tasty. He has two kids and loves gardening and eating with them. His last article about farmers markets was: Can too many markets be a bad thing? He can be reached at