Preserving the Harvest

About a third of the harvest.

Gardening is a never-ending struggle against the elements.

Seeds must be stored cool and dry to maintain viability.

Then they need to be kept warm and moist in order to germinate.

But not too moist, or they’ll rot, or damp off once sprouted.

Then the plants need to be nurtured with just the right amounts of sun, shelter, water and nutrients so they will grow and produce. They need to be protected from pests.

With luck and hard work, the gardener can nurture the plants all the way to harvest.

But even once that produce is harvested, a gardener continues to fight—some foods can be canned, dried, or frozen so they keep longer, but others can’t. Or, maybe they can, but they’re better fresh. Or maybe there’s no room in the freezer for them.

It’s about now that these fresh foods begin to show their age.

Members of the onion family—shallots, onions, garlic—are stored as living bulbs. When the solstice is past, they want to grow, so they begin to sprout, even hanging in their riestras in the shed or the kitchen.

Then there are the pumpkins. In theory, some can keep for up to six months or more after harvest. That is, in ideal conditions—cool and dry, sitting on dry straw and not touching one another. I don’t have ideal conditions, nor the space to spread out my pumpkins. They hang in mesh sacks from the rafters of the cool, but damp shed—the only way to protect them from the rats.

Three months from harvest, the first pumpkins are beginning to rot. I discovered them today when I selected pumpkins for a galette for dinner.

Now comes the race to bake as many pumpkins as possible and freeze their pureed flesh before they go bad, and before the freezer is full.

I can fit about eight pumpkins at a time in the oven, unless they are jumbo pink banana squash or musquee de Provence, which only fit one at a time . There are sixty-six pumpkins left in the shed. That’s a lot of baking!

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