A cooling fall wind has been blowing and the season is turning quickly towards winter. With just another week or two left before the final root vegetable harvest, it is a wonderful time to enjoy the fresh vegetables even more. Soon enough it will be over!
If you, like me, are fortunate to have enough garden space, you may have more carrots, beets and potatoes than you can keep up with. These vegetables are great for storing and will keep right through until next spring if stored correctly. My grandparents had a root cellar for this purpose alone, but not many people do these days. The root cellar provided a perfect moisture level and a constant cool temperature above freezing. Potatoes were stored in large wicker baskets and the carrots in damp sand or sawdust (from untreated wood only). I have lived for many years in row housing with no basement, so, though it is not an ideal way, I have had an extra fridge for storing vegetables. I have only enough to last me into early December and wish every year that I had more. If I did, no doubt I would make sure to have enough carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbages and onions to feed me for the entire winter.
When harvesting potatoes for storing it is best to do so on a dry day where the freshly harvested tubers can dry and the skin harden before putting them away. I simply dig them up and let them lay for a couple of hours on a sunny fall day before storing them. Using reusable black fabric shopping bags works really well for storing potatoes.
In regard to carrots, as part of my garden planning during the winter, I make sure to have on hand various types – some are suited for fresh eating out of the garden (summer carrots) while other varieties are better for storage (winter carrots). Any good quality seed catalogue should describe this and it is easy to select some of either type. Carrots need be stored with a little more moisture than potatoes, so I put them in plastic bags with some ventilation holes, and I keep checking them to see if they are too moist or getting too dry. Beets store well in the black fabric bags, and cabbage store well but possibly not for as long as the root vegetables.
Speaking of beets, which will keep growing till the frost hits a few degrees below zero, I discovered last week that some little unwanted guests had been chewing on my beets. They had tiny teeth marks and several of the beets were hollowed out bite by tiny bite. The voles found my beets and had a big feast! The cat that used to hang around the garden had disappeared a few weeks earlier, so these little brown mice felt safe to eat my beets.
They have been known to destroy entire harvests and not only will they eat the beets, they may also eat the carrots and chew their way through cabbage and cauliflower. So I decided to harvest my beets a bit early in order to save my harvest. Big pots of beet soup followed and some are now stored safely in my extra fridge.
I have also harvested a large amount of parsley, which is a very nutritious herb that has many uses. After rinsing it well, I put it in the food processor to chop it up finely. I then fill an ice cube tray with the chopped parsley and add water to make ice cubes. After freezing for a few hours the parsley cubes can be popped out and put in a Ziploc bag. It is then super easy to grab a couple of cubes for a béchamel sauce or for the soup pot.
Peppermint has been abundant as of late, and makes a fantastic addition to mojitos, fresh mint tea or homemade iced tea. The other day I made a fresh berry drink for some kids using fresh lime juice squeezed over the fresh mint, soda, homemade saskatoon berry juice, a dash of maple syrup to sweeten, and a handful of frozen saskatoon berries and freshly picked raspberries from my backyard. What a joy it was to see the kids drink a healthy, real drink without any sugar, preservatives and artificial colour.
Real food is medicine. Let’s keep growing our own and teaching our children before it becomes a lost skill.
Lone Sorensen is the founder of Northern Roots and has lived and grown food in Yellowknife for 27 years.