One of the ways growing our own food helps us feel more connected to the Earth is the increased sensitivity to and appreciation for the seasons it brings. The spring planting, the summer bean harvest, the garlic harvest that marks the late part of summer then comes canning season, which usually comes just before the squash season that marks the coming of winter.
Today, donning jackets in the early morning hours, we feel the season changing intensely. The jam/jelly canning is well underway. George has already put up several jars of jam and jelly, including red currant, raspberry and peach. We also recently had the opportunity to go harvest some elderberries from a neighbor's yard. We are always game to try something new. This year, because our raspberry crop is likely to be down quite a bit (we usually keep harvesting all they way into late September) we jumped on the chance to boost our winter jelly/jam reserves (video below).
Then came yesterday's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share pick up. It was a huge haul of tomatoes, onions, peppers, greens and more. On top of the giant regular share, we also picked up 70 pounds of tomatoes. That means - ready or not - canning season is here. These beautiful fruits will not wait and our yard is bursting with fresh herbs, peppers and spices to help us turn them into delicious sauces, salsas and pastes.
Each year, our goal is to can enough fresh picked, in-season tomatoes to last us all year. Though we still have some left from last year's canning, the reserves are getting low and we are looking forward to seeing the pantry overflowing with freshly canned jars again.
To reach our goal, we will be shopping the farmer's markets in order to find about 30 - 40 pounds of "ugly" organic tomatoes. We are firm believers in the ugly food movement, which seeks to rescue foods that that are perfectly fine, but that are usually thrown away because the growers can't generally sell anything but the most perfect-looking fruits and veggies. Buying "ugly" tomatoes puts a little extra money in the pockets of local organic growers by letting them sell produce they otherwise would not be able to sell. It also lets us buy tomatoes for pennies on the dollar.
We end up getting our organic tomatoes for less than $1 per pound, which means that we end up with the most delicious, organic pantry full of food possible, and at a fraction of the cost of commercial, organic jars of sauce and salsa.. The whole process takes only a couple of weekends, is a lot of fun, and saves us hundreds of dollars every year.
Watching the kitchen fill up this week with amazing, fresh-picked produce ready for canning, we can really feel the changing of the seasons. It's like having our fingers on the pulse of the planet. It helps us feel connected to the Earth and grateful for the bounty of nature.