Monday, January 18, 2010

Using What You Already have

40-50 year old stove top bean (corn) dehydrator
I used to use one on a woodstove (in the '70's)
15-20 year old electric dehydrator
I'm beginning to realize just how much I have that I don't really use. So many of us are struggling in such immediate ways; the CNN footage of the crisis facing the people of Haiti is forefront in my mind, but I'm also thinking of my friends, the Luppinaccis, whose house burned just after they moved into it, two weeks before the birth of their first grandchild. I'm thinking of Earl, under the Parkway bridge, though he lives there by choice. I'm thinking of the hungry kids at The Caring Place, and the homeless people who live under the Albertus L. Meyer bridge in Allentown. I'm thinking about my old college friend who has pneumonia, and is losing his job. I'm blessed. I'm not rich, but I'm blessed.
I've been researching root cellars. We're lucky enough to have a rather rustic basement, with an unfinished cinder block stairway and door that exits to the back yard. It gets cold out there in the winter. I'm currently monitoring the temperature and the humidity using a remote thermometer and a hygrometer. I've been reading about this old art as much as I can, in preparation for this year's garden choices. If it seems feasible (and I think it will), I'll be root-cellaring a good portion of my crop next winter, for use in my soups. I'll grow the vegetables at the farm. My soups will be more nutritious, and less expensive. Win/win. I'll let you know how my plans progress.
I blogged about the bean dehydrator before, so I'll just refer you to that entry here. The other dehydrator was bought years ago when I still lived in Easton. I had a garden plot with "Pop" (Charlie Rush), my neighbor's grandfather, who died at the age of 100 right around the time I met Peter. Pop was kind enough to share his gardening stories with me and kind enough to welcome me onto his land. I had so much produce that I used to drop baskets of it off at strangers' places; no kidding! And they were happy to have it. As I didn't have a freezer and I wasn't yet making soup, I did a lot of dehydrating then, mostly herbs and fruits. When Pop passed and I moved in with Peter, I lost my opportunity to garden for awhile. I stopped using the dehydrator and gave it to a friend. That friend, who had a garden of his own, gave it back to me a few years ago. I finagled my way into a nice garden plot at the farm and retrofitted Peter's teensy little yard with my square-foot innovations, and I'm gardening again, and here we are: I have ample vegetables. I'm using what I have: a dehydrator. Buy one. They're really useful. I wasn't aware that you could dehydrate celery, zucchini, and lots of other vegetables. Dehydrated food requires no energy to save over the winter after the initial drying (you can dehydrate naturally as well, and use none at all!). I'm learning about it all in this great book: Putting Food By, by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan. There are lots of good tips in that book; some good recipes, too! Check it out! And I'll be using the natural cold storage on my back steps as well. You'll see.

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