Food preservation is in full swing up here in Iowa. Drought not withstanding. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t really matter what the weather is doing, as long as your food shed has enough variety, there will be food that loves whatever the weather is doing and produces a bumper crop. Possible exceptions include tornadoes and wild fires. :-D Sorry.
In the past I’ve really focused my food preservation around the thinking that I should preserve enough to see my family through until the next year’s harvest of that crop. So, a year’s worth or slightly less. Most of the time, that really does make sense. Most of the time, that thinking makes for a nice concrete number that I can use to do some math and decide on amounts. Last month for sweet corn canning, I figured I use 2 pints a month, times it by 12 and I know I want to shoot for 24 pints before calling it quits.
You know where I’m going with this of course, the years where that crop doesn’t produce, for whatever reason, enough to preserve. I made the tastiest Spiced Plums a couple of years ago from a wild plum windfall. Since then, late frosts and dry winters have severely impacted stone fruit in Iowa. I’m really wanting more Spiced Plums, but I’ll have to wait to try again, maybe next year? Maybe the year after that? It makes me sad just thinking about it.
Now, plums are of course, not essential for my survival. As much as I may have thought differently during the last trimester of my pregnancy. A lot of crops have one or two other crops that could be substituted without much adjustment. Plums will likely be replaced with a few more batches of peaches, which we can find this year. One type of squash may not do well, but another could great; even summer versus winter squash, they fill a lot of the same meal niches. (Side veg, soup filler…)
For crops that don’t have an easy substitute, how do you know when you have enough? There are plenty of stories and records of long lasting food disruptions. The 7 year drought in the bible comes to mind; some pests and diseases can lead to a multiple year hiatus on growing that crop in the area; wildfires and tornadoes can cause damage to fruit trees that takes years to recover from.
So what’s a prepper to do? On the one hand I try to keep my eye on the variety of foods available in my food shed. If something isn’t looking good for the year, as long as I know there’s an alternative that’s likely to come through, I don’t worry. Additionally, I do try to encourage that variety. I make sure and purchase a variety of things from the farmer’s market, so they’ll have financial incentive to continue to plant that variety. Plus, it keeps me on my toes in the kitchen, giving me practice at cooking more than the basic green beans and potatoes. For things that I do rely on and don’t have a locally available alternative, I’m thinking I may try to push myself to a 2 year supply of preserves, as long as it’s safe. Sweet corn would be fine for a 2 year spell in a glass jar in my basement. Field corn could be dried and would last for a lot longer than 2 years if kept away from light and air. Canning 2 years worth of tomatoes would be quite a challenge… drying them could be doable though.
Chime in if you’ve had any thoughts lately about how much to store and for how long.
Also, I pulled 6 giant watermelon out of my community plot this weekend. What on earth can I do to preserve watermelon? I’ve juiced one, that can probably freeze… I’d welcome any advice on watermelon preservation. :-D
- Calamity Jane