Here at Chiot’s Run we started growing more edible food only 4 years ago. We started with one raised bed that was 4×10 ft. We had a bountiful harvest of beets, lettuce and broccoli our first year and we were hooked. As we’ve expanded our gardens we’ve been trying to grow more and more of what we eat. I love the seasonality that growing your own provides, vegetables and fruits can be enjoyed at the height of their season. During the spring we gorge ourselves on tender asparagus, none of it goes in the freezer as I want to enjoy it in it’s prime, not as a shadow of itself in mid-December. The same goes for green beans, I plant a small amount for us to enjoy during the summer months, but I don’t can or freeze any since it’s not nearly as good this way.
The more we garden the more we try to live seasonally instead of growing 5-6 crops and preserving them. One of the joys of growing your own is that you don’t have to limit yourself to what everyone else is growing. You can grow new and interesting things. You can also save a lot of time and money by focusing on eating seasonally and growing foods that preserve themselves naturally without any extra effort from you. Things like pumpkins, squash, cabbage, dry beans, potatoes and onions. I look that these things as staple crops that we can count on while filling in the gaps with other fresh crops, like lettuce, beans, broccoli and peas. Of course there are those things we’ll always preserve because we enjoy them, like tomatoes and peppers. But the longer we garden the more we try to live within the bounty of the seasons.
There are a few staples however that we eat almost all year long and are trying to figure out how to provide for those needs from our garden. Sometimes this means thinking outside of the box. I started growing onions a few years ago and my harvests are always meager because of our lean soil. As I’ve been improving our soil the onions have been coming around, growing to a more normal size. I don’t know if we’ll ever grow all the bulb onions we’ll need, but I’m learning to supplement our bulb onion harvest with other varieties of onions. I have some Egyptian Walking Onions that are producing lovely green onions for harvest right now. It’s perfect timing because there are no bulb onions left in the pantry. I also have a nice row of leeks that I overwintered in my mom’s garden that will be ready to harvest soon. If I have started my leek seeds early in the summer last year I would have been able to harvest leeks all winter long to supplement the main onion crop.
I also have bunching onions that I planted last fall that will be ready to harvest soon. These will also play an important role in supplementing my main onion crop as well. I’m also growing shallots for the first time as well. My potato onions are harvested before the main crop of bulb onions and help fill in the gap between the using the last bulb onions and this year’s harvest. Since they don’t store well they’re perfect for this. We eat them up while waiting for the main onion crop. I’m working on developing a plan for fulfilling my onion needs from my garden. This not only will help me grow more of what we eat, but it helps me maximize my small garden space by growing smaller crops throughout all the seasons rather than one large crop during the summer. My onion plan will go something like this:
I encourage you to think outside the normal growing/preserving box. Learn to love fruits and vegetables at their height of flavor during their season. This may mean eating things you don’t especially love at the moment, but trust me. The more you eat braised kale the more you’re going to love and appreciate this hardy winter green during those long cold winter months. It’s definitely tastier and fresher than a quart of green beans from the basement pantry!
Not only is eating seasonally going to save you some time and effort on the preserving front, but it is much healthier as well. I’m a big believer in eating locally and seasonally because these vegetables provide you with the nourishment you need at that particular time. Thick winter soups filled with healthy bone broth good saturated fat helps keep us warm and healthy during the long dark days of winter. Spring dandelions help detox the liver after a that long winter indulging in bread and more fatty foods.
What crop does your family consume that you’d like to grow more of in your garden? Are you learning to love the seasonality of growing your own?
I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves, Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.