At Farmer’s Guild earlier this summer, when Inland Mendocino County farmers gathered for a potluck at Green Uprising Farm, we were asked to introduce ourselves and share what our favorite part of summer was. Almost everyone was head-over-heels for summer, with it’s warm weather and abundant produce. Not me, though – I’m a fall and winter girl. On the day that I was born, it was the first rain of the fall and I’m convinced that it’s in my blood to look forward to the cold weather.Summer produce is great, but fall produce fills me with over-the-top hyperbole, like “this is the single BEST fig I have ever tasted in my whole life” (from Floodgate Farm, and it really was). I plan much of my preserving to happen in the fall months, when summer produce is still plentiful and fall produce has come into season. This year I’m canning as many heirloom tomatoes as I possibly can manage, making basic stewed tomatoes to be used in all sorts of soups, stews and braises during the winter. I’m dehydrating loads of the gorgeous French prune plums you can find from Green Uprising Farm & Covelo Organics, among others.
I’m also dehydrating Asian pears and late pluots we have here at our property, and making concord grape jam with our grapes. I’m canning dilly beans and blanching and freezing greens beans while we still have them, and will probably put up a few dozen quarts of pickles before the cucumbers disappear. I’m going to buy several cases of apples & pears from Seely Farm on the Food Hub in the next week or two also. I’ll probably make spiced apple and pear sauce, can some pears in syrup, and dehydrate a bunch of that as well.
I planted my winter squash really late this year and I’m not sure how that crop will come in, but if I need to, I’ll probably buy a few cases of delicatas and butternuts from Seely Farm to keep in the pantry as well. It’s much cheaper just to buy them now then end up having to buy them at the grocery store, and as long as they’re stored in a cool, dry place they’ll last for several months. Hot peppers are also in season, and I’ll be fermenting lots of hot sauce and making pepper jelly for the pantry, because we could never live without pepper jelly.Sometimes, as we move into fall, people can forget that it’s a vital part of the growing season for farmers as we finish harvesting summer produce and work to maximize everything we can get out our work for the summer season. It’s the perfect time of year to look for good deals on bulk purchases, and to stock your freezer and your pantry. If you’re on the fence, let me be the one to convince you: buy a box of butternut squash to stash in your pantry or garage. You don’t have to can it or anything, just leave it there and it will last on it’s own. Buy a box of apples, eat them fresh and then make some applesauce to can or freeze. If you’ve never canned before, read up on this post about how it’s totally manageable to can some tomatoes, or just throw them in the freezer if that’s too much to deal with.
We only have another month or so before the weather gets cold and the selection of produce at the farmers market transitions into winter crops, so don’t wait. To inspire you to embrace the last of the summer growing season, we’ve started a new facebook group to share your best local food recipes, tips and more. Log on and share what your own favorite recipes, your favorite seasonal produce, and how you’re celebrating the change of seasons.