Monday, May 16, 2016

From the Archives: Dispatches from a Punk Rock Gardener | DIY Food Preservation

Authors note: I wrote this while living on historic 3rd Ave in Durango, Colorado. It was during the summer of fires, 2012, when Colorado had a record breaking year of wildfires. This was also the year that the Occupy movement began and widespread protest overtook cities internationally. A fertile time for fertile thoughts.

I am proud to report that my garden has been at least a 75% success. After battling sweltering heat and dry, wildfire loving drought, I am somehow managing to grow some amazing herbs, squash, cabbage, spring onions, and swiss chard, to name a few of the success cases. This summer has been so hot and dry that even the weeds in my garden wilt on some days! The dehydrator style climate of Southwest Colorado has proved very helpful in my food preservation endeavors however.
       At age 15, I declared myself an anarchist, painted Johnny Rotten portraits in my high school art classes, and began a lifetime of questioning authority. It is 20 years later, and I feel my punk rock roots most when I garden, go mad fruit picking, can, freeze, and preserve my own 'free' food. I feel this is as DIY (do it yourself) as it gets, and while I don't sport tattoos, spikes, or candy colored dyed hair, claiming control of my food supply is about as "punk rock" as it gets. When we grow and preserve our own food and/or support local farmers, we 'take the power back' within ourselves and our communities. We take off the chains of control that corporations and government have over us within the current food supply system. We make ourselves immune to economic ups and downs. It is empowering and incredibly self satisfying as I stock my shelves with dried hand picked fruit, and mason jars canned with local fresh food. My freezer is overflowing with gallon bags of schucked sweet corn, peaches and cherries for smoothies, and blanched garden greens such as spinach and chard. When we give up the overprocessed, corporate agricultural foods that are killing the planet and wreaking disease havoc on us, and eat simpler, change happens on a cellular level within while rippling out to the macrocosm collectively.
         We are at a time in history where we need to create change within ourselves and our communities through direct action. Instead of complaining and bitching about the political situation, we must own up, be the real independent americans that we are, and create change ourselves. No one else is going to do it for us. I am lucky to live in a vibrant Colorado mountain town community that values self sufficiency and supports local businesses and farmers. The heart of the Occupy movement is to Occupy ourselves and feel our collective power to create a sufficient, earth and people friendly reality. 
         Preserving the harvest is an ongoing learning process. Perhaps the easiest way is drying and freezing fruits and vegetables. Clean window screens transform into drying racks instantly. Line with parchment paper, cut fruit into 1/4 inch slices and let the sun do all the work. Cover with a mesh netting to keep out bugs and animals. Sun dried tomatoes are wonderful dried this way. Peaches and cherries can be pitted, sliced and frozen to make wonderful additions to smoothies and/or fruit pies come wintertime. Lay out fruit slices on a cookie sheet and freeze. After they are frozen, place into ziplock gallon or quart size bags. Fresh vegetables that are blanched or steamed freeze well also.
         Of course, there is the option of canning. Canning is quite a process. It takes a lot of time, patience, and some practice. I am in the throes of experimentation and learning of this food preservation art.  The flavor of ones' own homemade applesauce or fresh salsa preserved through canning is unsurpassable. Cracking open a mason jar full of local goodness while the snow is falling, makes the hours in front of a steaming canner in the middle of summer totally worthwhile. I must remind myself of this as finding motivation to can all day when my kitchen is 90 degrees (a.k.a hot as **#!) is a challenge!


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