While we’ve been largely successful in our efforts to eat locally for the past two months, we’re well aware that we’ve been doing this at the most bountiful time of year, at least in terms of cultivated crops (spring and summer are arguably better for wild foods). Local farms have probably been producing the greatest diversity of crops they are likely to do all year, and the farmers’ markets are hopping. At least some chickens are laying (ours aren’t, probably because they’re moulting), and goats are producing milk.

This is all likely to change in the next month or two as the weather cools off, and we’ll have to adjust our diet accordingly. Already we’ve seen a strong shift toward more greens in our diet, although our old staples of potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and beans are all still major components of our diet. Most importantly from my perspective, fresh chiles are still available. Tomatoes are also still available. These two important crops will likely vanish from the farmers’ markets soon, unless our abnormally warm weather continues. Our average first frost date is rapidly approaching (November 23rd or 24th), but I would be very surprised if we see freezing weather anytime around then. We were seeing near record highs until just a couple of days ago, when a low pressure system finally moved into the area and brought our high temperatures down to around the climatological average (mid-70’s), though our low temperatures are still about 10 degrees about average for mid-November. There’s actually a possibility of rain later this week!

Anyway, on to the point of this post: With the change in season will come a change in the types and quantity of foods available to us. Food preservation is an important skill which has enabled people to set aside food when it’s abundant so that they can eat when it’s less abundant otherwise. We should have been actively preserving the summer and fall harvests for our (blessedly short) winter, but we didn’t get our act together to do any canning of any sort. We did manage to take the lazy route of freezing a little bit of food. This should help us cope with the lack of certain things during winter, but we really only froze enough to barely supplement our diet, rather than really contribute to it substantially. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve saved in our freezer:

  • A dozen large whole tomatoes
  • Several apples and peaches, sliced
  • Half of a cooked pumpkin
  • A large jar of prickly pear juice
  • A large jar of pasta sauce
  • A small jar of arugula pesto
  • A small jar of desert hackberries
  • Lots and lots of chiles (both roasted and unroasted Anaheims, plus some jalapeños and Gueros)

Eventually we hope to get more sophisticated with our food preservation techniques. In the meantime it will be an interesting challenge to find fresh local food during the winter.

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