Kitchen gardens IV

Coming up soon to the third anniversary of the loss of my Little Lady, the love of my life, as most of you know, and having the necessity of almost 24/7 attendance for the greater part of her last two years, which you may not know, has not been something that I will ever regret.

It has been one of the greatest learning periods of my life. The adhering catalyst was having been born, as she, during the have-not times of the Great Depression. When it came to simple food selection, preparation, and storage, there was little that she did not already know and patiently teach me. To you I share segments of that which she taught, and a little of which I was to learn all by my little old self.

Root crops: In this I include potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, and turnips. These can be stored in bulk containers, along with onions, quite successfully in the coolness of a fruit cellar. Though recommended by most to not wash them, we found more success by washing them clean by dunking them in a pail of water and stirring them rapidly, this way and that, with the handle of an upturned broom. Then we laid them out to dry off for a short while in the noonday sun and then misted them lightly with a spray concoction that was simply three drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to eight ounces of water. Let them dry briefly and then turn them over and do likewise to the other side.

Hydrogen peroxide, which our own body produces to heal wounds, seems to contain remarkable capabilities of retarding both fungus and rot. But remember, at all times when using hydrogen peroxide, more is not better. The onions we simply left to dry several days in the sun, turning them occasionally, before cutting off the tops and storing. Their outer skins seemed to know what their insides needed best.

In later years, when freezers became the in thing, we switched to freezing many of those as they came into season. Rhubarb and asparagus were simply washed clean and cut up in half- inch lengths and quickly frozen. To make things easier, we were soon to learn to freeze everything spread out flat on cookie trays. Once frozen, we put them into sandwich-size Ziploc bags. That avoided freezing in one big lump, making it easy to break apart and dump out the proper amount when needed, and also allowed each variety to be stacked, and conveniently found, in an upright freezer.

Potatoes, (we prefer the smaller finger potato) carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and turnips we simply washed well and cut them in mouth-size pieces and used the convenient cookie trays as well. Beets, turnips, and sweet potatoes we peeled first. Don’t ask me why; skins are full of vitamins, I think perhaps it is because their skins are a little tough. Peppers and small cherry-size tomatoes we froze as well. The small tomatoes, frozen whole, go directly into the soup pot. The peppers we cut up into about half-inch squares, adding attractive colour when mixed. The larger green tomatoes, when not yet ripe, can be wrapped in wrinkled up newspaper. Stored in the dark, they will last right up to Christmas. Simply check them a couple of times each week and pick out the red ones.

And let me let you in on another little secret. Veggies are more nutritious if the skins are left on them, and by scrubbing them clean it is not necessary to blanch them before freezing. Anything that you may fear by not so doing, will be cancelled by the heat while cooking, what isn’t will just build up your immunity.

And don’t forget, you can make pickles out of cucumbers, applesauce, and apple butter from windfalls, and crocks of sauerkraut from mammoth, big cabbages. As a point of interest, I heard in a general conversation not long ago that a brother always adds turnips to his sauerkraut. “It looks horrible but the taste is great.” I’m going to try that this year.

I steam all my veggies, keeping them a little on the firm side; they hold their flavour better and are definitely more nutritious. I was fortunate in picking up a beautiful little Black & Decker steamer on sale for twenty bucks at Canadian Tire. The see-through size allows me to steam small quantities of six or seven different vegetables at a time, placed side by side, without mixing their flavour. It is the neatest invention since sliced bread, allowing one to enjoy the colours and taste the exceptional flavour of each individual vegetable.

So there you have it, folks. Keep healthy, keep happy, don’t go hungry, and try your best, with the money you save, not to go out and terrorize the town on Friday nights.

Take care, ’cause we care.



Barrie Hopkins