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Preserving traditions

Mulberry BlackThe end of summer/beginning of autumn is still a time of great abundance in the garden and in the local environment. We’ve been drowning in organic heritage tomatoes from our garden and further-a-field wild blackberries, walnuts and apples drip from the trees. There are way more fruit and vegetables than we can eat… One option is to just leave the food in the garden and pick as needed. Carrots and beetroots will happily sit in our raised garden beds all winter, particularly in colder areas.
However, as we are mostly self-sufficient and rely on the garden to feed ourselves, it makes more sense to pull the veggies out, store them, and start planting new crops.
All of which means: it’s preserving time in the kitchen.

The techniques we use for storing and preserving food were all once common knowledge, but these days tend to have fallen off the edge a bit. Just as with many permaculture ideas, rather than re-inventing the wheel, we are re-remembering the methods which served our ancestors so well.

DSCF2908The clamp is one of the simplest ways of storing root crops over the winter, you can build a frame, create a space in the cellar or simply cover your vegetables in a mound of sand.

When storing food in a sustainable, permaculture system, you need to think about using appropriate technology and the energy inputs and outputs of the process. Ideally food storage should be achieved with free, locally sourced, low energy materials, such as solar power instead of electricity to dry food, salting instead of cooking to preserve, stevia instead of sugar for sweetening and gourds, traditional Maori poha (bull kelp) bags, animal skins or citrus for storing, rather than imported agee jars.
You can read Marco’s blog on building a simple solar dryer here.
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However, before food storage even begins, we need to take things right back to the start and focus on remineralising the soil.  The higher the mineral content of the soil, the more nutrient dense and high brix the fruit and vegetables will be, and the better they will keep. Produce with a high mineral content will store for a long time, slowly wizening, while low nutrient produce will just rot. Getting the soil balance right is the basis of all our work at Koanga.

DSCF2912One of the more delicious preserving techniques is making food into pesto or chermoula, which can keep in a sealed container for over a year.

You can make pesto and chermoula out of practically anything, but here is one of the recipes we made on our latest food traditional food processing and storing weekend workshop:

Pumpkin seed and Lambs quarters pesto

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Ingredients

½ cup Austrian hulless pumpkin seeds
2 cups Lambs quarters leaves
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup of olive oil
¼ cup solar-dried tomatoes
salt to taste

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We used our wonderful Austrian hulless pumpkin which takes all the hard work out of dehulling your pumpkin seeds as they have no outer casing and ready to go as soon as you crack open your pumpkin.  This variety should be going into our July catelogue for you to plant your own. Lambs quarters is an easy-grow leafy green plant. We usually pick it a day prior to pesto-making day, so the leaves wilt slightly. This reduces the water content, which helps it to preserve for longer. Adding more garlic, chilli, lemon, oil and salt will further extend the shelf-life of your pesto. Cheese is also a tasty addition. We usually make pesto in vast quantities, but this recipe should make one small jar/orange peel container/gourd or whatever your vessel of choice is.

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Simply grind up all your ingredients in a mortar and pestle or food processor and when you are happy with the taste and consistency, spoon into jars, leaving just enough room to pour a layer of oil over the top to help prevent oxygen getting in.

We’ll cover more recipes and preserving and fermenting tips in the next blog. In the meantime: Happy preserving.

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