I’m eating reheated shepherd’s pie and sipping hot tea with honey while browsing through the Sero Seed catalog and dreaming about spring and summer garden harvests. It’s time to start planning. I’m taking an inventory of what worked last year and I’m going to start building out our wish lists for this year. Then I’ll plot out when to plant everything.
Planning our food for a year will be a challenge. I generally have a bit of an abiding dislike of strict recipes (lots of “pinch of this, handful of that” recipes will be found here), and before we had a garden my favorite thing to do when it was possible was to go to a farm stand, pick up what was fresh, and build out the night’s dinner from there.
But having a plan for this year is essential. We need to know how much we are going to grow, when it needs to go in the soil, and what varieties of veggies and fruits we missed last year.
We grew our vegetables last year in hugelkultur beds, a form of permaculture gardening that we used at our last house. It was a great success for us, producing a solid crop of vegetables without additional watering beyond the initial germination stage. It is difficult to underscore how lovely it was to not have to manage the watering process all season long. Plus, hugelkultur beds by nature create an incredibly nutrient-rich soil that makes for super flavorful food. If you have any questions about how we built ours, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll be happy to answer. I’ll also add a post toward early spring with more info about planting.
We didn’t get the beds built until June, and didn’t get seeds and starts in the soil until mid-June and even early July. Despite the slow start, we had a great year. Bear with me or skip right over this long-winded cataloging of our food, it’s helpful to me and a good record for me as I go forward, but I understand it might be dull as all get-out to read unless you’re food-obsessed like me and revel in every word as if it were a flavor on your tongue right now.
We grew herbs: a small basil forest, mint, oregano, sage, parsley, and some cilantro. We had a bumper crop of cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini–enough to keep me happily canning with friends at the end of the summer–as well as kabocha squash, Cinderella pumpkins, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, several varieties of kale (Lacinato, red Russian, red curled), chard and rainbow chard, beets, spinach, arugula, borage, Nasturtium, lettuces, green beans, sweet peas, icicle radishes, multicolored heirloom carrots, and a variety of tomatoes–heirloom tomatoes like Indigo Rose, slicing tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, and lots of cherry tomato varieties, like Candyland Reds.
In all, we have about 30 fruit trees including Italian prune plums, several varieties of pears (bosc, Asian, Williams), and apples–transparents, Gala, Fuji, McIntosh, Cameo, and some heirloom varieties we need to identify, including, I think, a couple Pippins or maybe an Arkansas black apple. (We have an arborist coming out this year to help us identify them all.)
We were in the middle of a kitchen remodel last year which made the whole harvesting and cooking process interesting. I used friend’s kitchens for some of the canning and froze as much as I could, but didn’t go heavy into that process. I made a lot of applesauce, though, and shared it with friends. Our favorite was apple-pear-blackberry sauce with a hint of vanilla and pumpkin spice.
We also have four hazelnut trees, a small blueberry garden, boysenberries, a bing cherry tree, a sour cherry tree, an arbor and fence of Concord grapes, a field of blackberries, and a beautiful peach tree that was gifted to us that we failed to put in the earth soon enough and we are hoping to revive.
Aren’t you HUNGRY?
As I look through all of these foods, I remember the delight I had as each seed began to find its place and grow. We’ve gardened before, but not on this scale. I felt an utterly overpowering amazement that a tiny sprout of arugula was indistinguishable from the tiny sprout of spinach but tasted like a million bites of arugula wrapped into a baby-fingerprint-sized leaf. I can still taste the earthy nettle soup that hearkened spring; the bright arugula pesto on a sunny day on our porch, heady basil-tomato-mozzarella on bread and huge kale salads filled with mint and herbs and Parmesan shared with friends at the beach, creamy zucchini soups, fresh salsas and crispy chips, juicy tomatoes on toast with fried fresh eggs and cracked pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt, apple-blackberry cobblers with cinnamon maple topping, fresh-picked berries topped with a mountain of fresh whipped cream… Every single day was a food festival during the summer.
This year, we’ll have a deep freezer, a stand-up freezer, and a walk-in storeroom downstairs for the canned goods. I plan to grow enough to feed us all throughout the growing season, and then throughout winter until spring 2019.
On the docket for this year is also an introduction into the world of simple sauces and condiments–I am going to to make our own mayonnaise, mustard, dressings (beyond the vinaigrettes I normally make), and dry our herbs. We’ll make lots of jams and pie fillings. We’re also going to make fun things like dandelion wine and flavored kombucha (no PNW kitchen is complete without a simmering batch of scoby-laden kombucha lurking in the corner somewhere). I’m also going to build out an herbal tea garden and plant a bunch more flowers throughout the yard. I’m especially excited about the dahlias.
We need more beds than we had last year. We’re debating whether all of them should be hugelkultur beds, including the potato beds. Or whether we should grow potatoes in vertical beds using wood barrels.
And so, with that, I will sign out and begin researching. More on this soon. Happy dreaming and eating!