Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cross-quarter day and roots

Yesterday was a cross-quarter day--the midpoint between the solstice and the equinox. For many traditional cultures, the day was important: it marked the approximate beginning of spring. While it certainly doesn't feel like spring out there, I can understand where these people were coming from. After a hard winter, it's nice to anticipate warmer weather knocking on the door. And in some places it is here. Even in Wisconsin we had a thaw day recently, with more to come this weekend.

Now, in the U.S., Feb. 2 is officially Groundhog Day. I don't know about the groundhog. I'm just glad Hallmark doesn't own the day and we don't give each other crappy cards for no reason. For others past and present the day is/was called Imbolc, Candlemas, Oimelc, Lupercalia, Feast of Nut, etc. It was an important day because time and place meant a lot to the livelihood of the people who celebrated it. Now it's mostly just a silly day.

But I sort of celebrated the day by reflecting and taking stock. It made me think about the food we stored this year. The midway point between the astronomical seasons seems to be a good point to reflect on such a thing. It is also a rough midpoint between last harvest and next harvest.

It was our second year of storing crops in earnest. This year was by far the most food we've stored, with something like 100 lbs at the start of the storage season. Our method of storage is pretty crude: we have a tiny apartment that doesn't offer much variation in temperature or humidity from room to room, so we're pretty limited as to what we can offer our veggies.

Potatoes live in an Empty Beer Box in the Living Room Closet™, which is adjacent to the outside wall of the apartment and thus is the coldest space. Winter squash lives in a paper grocery bag underneath the kitchen table. Onions and garlic live on the bottom shelves in a lower cabinet in the kitchen. Carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, cabbage, celeriac, radishes, beets, and turnips live in various places in the fridge (mostly the crisper, but the crisper can't hold them all at the beginning of the storage season). We've got peppers of all kinds sliced up in the freezer and dehydrated tomatoes in a bag in the cabinet. Some carrot-habanero sauce in a jar in the fridge. And we've been long done with our frozen salsa and tomato sauce.

Storage has gone amazing this year, considering the less-than-ideal conditions of our apartment (we do keep it relatively cool though, for many reasons).

Potatoes (especially the russets) are just now starting to shrivel a bit and the sprouts are starting to get out of hand (because they want to be planted soon!). The yellow-fleshed varieties seem to be holding up the best. Luckily I just reupped my stash of locally grown yellow potatoes, which have up till now been stored in ideal conditions (it was a fringe benefit from a good job).

Squash is doing exceptional, aside from the two red kuris we lost to rot about a week ago (if you've ever tasted them, it is a real loss). The acorns, which are still good and solid, have turned all orange!

Garlic and onions are as good as new, and we have a lot of them left, which is awesome.

Everything in the fridge is still doing well aside from a few cabbage, parsnip, daikon, and celeriac casualities at various points throughout the winter.

The tomatoes are perfect.

And we have a few peppers left in the freezer.

So there it is. Lots of real food left to bring us through the next couple months, which I'm so grateful for. It took a lot of hard but ultimately satisfying work to grow, care for, harvest, and store them. Next summer/fall we'll see about doing more dehydrating and canning.

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