March 22 • 04:50 AM

Pantry full of promise

Revive the art of self-sufficiency and create memories along the way

Jill Hough’s zinnias are fresh and colorful and are just $5 a bouquet at the Almont Farmers Market. photo by Catherine Minolli.
July 25, 2007
An article from 'Growing for Market' pointed out, "In the modern industry agriculture systems, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand heavy harvesting equipment—tough skin that can survive packing and shipping, for the ability to have long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet these rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown.

"Local farms in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic materials from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection— they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate."

When choosing and preserving this year's harvest keep in mind some varieties "put-up" better than others and some freeze better. Seeking out a U-Pick or local farm stand, or visiting your farmer at the farmers market are your best bets when purchasing for the pantry.

I'm sure I'm not alone in being weary of buying a tomato that gets mushy upon purchasing, doesn't taste like it looks and molds around the stem area within two days of purchase. Midwinter there's not much choice, but these hot summer days will soon bring forth a delicious vine ripened crop. Fresh tomato slices with basil olive oil and fresh mozzarella cheese are an awesome summertime treat. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and black pepper. Mmmm, mmm!

The other day I was visiting with Jill Hough, sipping a cup of tea while watching her new brood of baby chicks. "Chicken TV" is very relaxing and lowers blood pressure. The Hough gardens are huge and they are having to irrigate their farm gardens from the pond due to the lack of rain. The zinnias are shorter than most years but in bud. The hundreds of tomato plants are looking good from the tender care they receive with the help Jill's father.

In talking with Jill, she shared the following fresh cut flower tips:

Always keep your vase as clean as if it were a drinking glass. Add a couple drops of bleach, ¼ teaspoon sugar and a crushed aspirin tablet then fresh cold water and stir to dissolve. Fresh cut the ends just before placing them in the vase, keep out of direct sunlight and drafts. This will extend the lives of your beauties a few more days. Following her guidelines I've had farm fresh flowers last up to ten days.

This week at market from my side of the table, I found it odd to talk to folks of their delight with all the sun we're having. I'm delighted too, but many are totally unaware to the fact that the crops are dying in the fields and how all this sunshine will affect their dinner table, both in lack of product and in prices. Have you noticed how the corn is curling? It's reaching, praying for rain. It's at a critical stage. Much of this year's crop will produce tall green stalks with no ears. It won't be good for anything but a poor grade cattle feed. This is one of the worst years with lack of rain I've ever seen.

Most of our families are now two generations away from gardening, canning, drying, even sewing on a simple button. Our busy lifestyles have lead us away from the simple fine arts of basic living. With so much of the population having to work 24/7 for so long we've had to allow others to grow for us, can for us, sew for us. What if those sources weren't there?

What if we had to depend on ourselves to survive?

What if one day you woke up and our world was changed to the point where our big box stores couldn't open for a month or more? Ask yourself, what if today you had to provide for yourself and your family for not just a couple of days but the entire winter?

Our world is a different place than it was just a few short years ago. The trials on this globe are not as far away as they use to be. And with a blink of an eye they can be in our own backyards.

Paul and Jeromy Keller offer a fresh way to shop with their maple syrup products and fresh-from-the-garden produce at the Almont Farmers Market. Keller’s farm is on Bordman Road. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

It's not my intention to create alarm but to encourage those of you who feel the tug of your instincts telling you to fill the pantry. I know you're out there. You often ask me questions about this very thing.

Become friends with a grower who can teach you how easy and satisfying it can be to garden and preserve. There's still time this summer to plant green beans, beets, herbs, lettuce, even some tomatoes with late fall protection. Our climate is changing, each year we're given a few more days to harvest in the fall. Today I'm going to plant some potatoes in an old tractor tire garden. It's early July so this is an experiment, the black rubber will keep the plants warm well into late fall. There should be enough time to have a fair crop.

Whether we like it or not, in these difficult times we're having to go back to basics, back to a more practical way of living. Let's see this as a time for renewal, even if it's a forced renewal, from circumstances beyond our control, such as this drought our area is in. Seems we're all being forced to deal with lack these days in one way or another. How we walk through it, how we deal with the relationships in our lives while going through it is what matters most. Not all of it's good but what is bitter makes the good even better. This can be a time of joy! Making great memories around the kitchen table from husking, to shelling, to sorting, to slicing, to enjoying a family meal where you can say with pride what you've grown and or know the original source of all the food on your table.

While preparing your pantry keep in mind those who won't take these steps.

Put up a little extra to share. Come to think about it, perhaps that's part of what this state is going through, it's about reaching out and getting reacquainted with your neighbor, your brother, sister and your friends. Use this as a time for reconnecting.

For guidance on filling your pantry stop by the market and request a copy of the extensive 'Pantry List' to help you along your quest.

Email Teemie at

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