CNY Food Swap

My friend Karen and I have just returned from a “food swap”:  A gathering of like-minded folks who bring whatever preserved items they have extra from their own farms or gardens to swap for items others have brought.  These items are preserved in various ways to be kept until needed.  There was canned foods, dried items, cheese, frozen meat, fresh produce items that keep well, baked-goods, preserves, granola, honey and vanilla sugar, even kombucha (fermented tea) starter!  I brought with me a case of honey, something I have plenty of, and exchanged it for some amazing foods, some of which I had never heard of, and I am delighted!

A vareity of offerings to be swapped

We drove to Utica for this event, titled the CNY Food Swap.  It was hosted by a wonderful woman I was glad to meet named Jenn Cackett.  There were about 11-12 people, from varying distances away.  Everyone brought items of their specialty, and we were all so glad to exchange for items we had not in our own pantries.  We all were introduced to different foods, and different people.  We nibbled and sampled, ooing and ahhing over the wonderful creations.

Oh, the conversations!

But mostly, we talked.  It was so refreshing to be amongst people who understood food the way we do: To view the Summer’s bounty as the Winter’ store, to be constantly thinking of how to keep the choices interesting, to create new flavor combinations to accommodate the changing offerings each year, and to rediscover the old, fading ways of not only keeping enough food to survive, but to downright flourish!  We are passing down the ancient treasures of foods made and kept to enjoy over the festive Holidays, and the warming comfort foods essential to keeping the home fires bright during the dim months of Winter and early Spring.  Few places can you engage in conversations about the bitter-sweet woes of being buried in sweet corn, or the intricate art of judging when your kimchi is finished, or of the satisfaction of knowing that your children can already tell quality food from the grocerystore’s offerings, and be surrounded by people who fully understand.  Such a gift!  The Energy we brought away was amazing, and we cannot wait to gather again.  The food I brought home was amazing, too, and my kids cannot wait until I go back.  They want to come along.  Could they already be craving this sort of camaraderie, being farm children embroiled in public school?  They must feel equally out-of-place as we sometimes do in today’s modern world.

The variety of choices was terrific!

Splendid Cookies and Brownies!

Likely one of the best experiences to bring back from the event, is that of being surrounded by moms who are making it work.  Who are making homemade=convenient.  Who have found out that finding the time to can pays off so much more-fold all winter.  In better food.  In healthier children.  In cost and time savings.  This is what is really needed to make a change in our society, where so many moms/parents are working, transporting their children to various events and commitments, and are left with so little time for meal-planning and preparation.  Helping each other find ways to make it work, changing old habits, and discovering how much better the food can be are what these food swaps are all   about.

Karen's Jams and my Honey

Learning to eat local, gather and put up your own food, and using if effectively and with diversity and interest can be daunting to undertake all at once!  So don’t go it alone.  Find your own friend, partner, or group to work with; either someone experienced or another newcomer such as yourself.  You can help each other, share new recipes and ideas, even go to classes together.   Attend local food swaps, or create on yourself.  And definitely pair up with a friend when it’s time to do the work.  Often canning involves large volumes of food, and the time spent peeling and prepping these foods goes by much faster with a partner to chit chat!

My kids testing everything out. Strait A's!!

CNY Harvest Swap is planning another event in January.  You can “like” CNY Harvest Swap’s facebook page to be kept up-to-date, and to see pictures from the event this past Sunday.

We hope to see you at the next gathering!  I can’t wait to see what you bring. 🙂

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What’s (Still!) Fresh in the Garden?

This morning I took  a stroll through the gardens to see what’s still growing.  Quite a bit, it turns out!

Alas, here on November 1st, the tomatoes are gone.  Finally succumbed to the chill of Halloween and the previous nights, they are the tell-tale brown, drooping mess, hunched over like swamp monsters, hanging from the ties holding them to their stakes and looking like swamp monsters hung for their crimes.  This is always sad, but necessary:  I mustn’t hold on to them, or any other vestiges of Summer any longer.  Autumn is here, and soon Winter behind it, and I must move on.

Thanksgiving will be here, next Christmas, and thus begins a frenzy of cooking and celebration. Not only celebrating the changing seasons, the Holy Time to come, and giving thanks for the bountiful harvest, but also celebrating the food itself:  For there is lots of it, and it is not humanly possible  to put up every bit.  So it s eaten.  In excess.  With gusto.  Fancied up with candy treatments and liquors. Rolled in sugar, honey and maple syrup until it shines.  It is roasted, braised, stuffed, flambed, butterflied and spatch-cocked into works of Art.   Out come the family and cultral traditions, the finery and the special things reserved only for these days.

In this natural rhythm are sill plenty of fresh delights from the garden for this season;  fruits that sleep deep into the Winter, veggies that stand proud, tall and green with snow around their hips, and herbs that continue to provide freshness and pizzaz far past the golden days of Summer.

Late Cabbage

Thus, on my stroll through the gardens, I found many choices to add to my dinner this evening.   Brassica, or “cole crops”, do remarkable well in cooler temperatures, even taking on a new sweetness of flavor after the frosts have shut everything else down.

Collard greens florish in the chill of Autumn

  Collards, cabbages, and broccoli are all still beautiful and green, healthy and ready to eat.
    There is Swiss chard and mustard greens.  These are delicious lightly cooked down with a little water or broth, some salt and pepper, perhaps some garlic and/or butter.

Bright Lights Swiss

Beets

 Beets  are still quite lush and beautiful shades of green and red.  They stand right out now that the weeds have died back.

Carrots popping through the spent weeds. The roots can be pickled or eaten. The greens are excellent cooked, raw, or made into kimchi. Fall carrots are a sweet treat. These are storage carrots, meant to take longer to grow and easy to keep over the winter. Some gardeners even mulch them and keep them in the field over the winter, digging as needed. One will be in competition with mice if keeping the carrots this way. There is broccoli and Chinese cabbage. When growing broccoli, always leave the main stem behind after cutting off the main head; numerous little side shoots will emerge, often resulting in more weight than the original crown! Same with the cabbages, leave the plant in the ground and they willl make more heads, too!Late Broccoli

The Chinese cabbage will make terrific kimchi!  I can’t wait!  Or whole family enjoys it on all kinds of dishes.

This Chinese cabbages have already been cut once. They are gorgeous.

These veggies that keep producing into the colder months are often higher in starches and sugars, and these are nutrients that your body may naturally begin to store up to sustain you through the Winter months.  Another example of seasonal eating being a great choice for health.

Due to these miraculous qualities, you, too, can still find a great selection at your local farmers market.  And definitely poke around your own garden!  Even if it seems at first glance that the harvest is over, you just may discover some hidden delighs!  

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