Tag Archives: food storage

Planning self sufficiency

We like to have a wide variety in vitamins all year round. Yes you do get creative when you have heaps of zucchini (courgette) in June or daily kilo’s of tomatoes in July and August, but after a week of daily zucchini it’s definitely not your favorite vegetable anymore.
And besides that: more diversity is more nutritious. Eating a variety of foods can help prevent diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. And did you know that all different colors of food have different nutrients? (Read: “Eating well by color”)

Sowing with an interval

Seedlings in our glasshouse. A bit too many...
Seedlings in our glasshouse. A bit too many…

Prevention is easier than curing, so make sure you sow your seeds not all at once, but make a “sowing program”. For instance: I have tomato seeds that officially you can sow indoors in February and March. For me, that means that I start 2 weeks earlier (to give it a try), and sow just a few seeds with a 2 weeks interval, ending 2 weeks later than the official date. Half of January I sow 3 or 4 seeds, then 3 or 4 seeds again on 1 and 15 February and 1, 15 and 30 March and half of April.
After half of May most of the babyplants go into the garden, but I like to put a few of them in a pot in the greenhouse or behind a window. Especially the ones I sowed late, that are still small. Behind the glass they get a good chance to grow well and give tomatoes until late in the season.

Be creative with overproduce
But when you can’t manage your sowing, what do you do when you have heaps of the same vegetable in a period? Google around and find nice ways to eat or store your harvest!
Zucchini (courgette) for instance. What to do with a few zucchini plants that all produce their fruits at the same time? First: pick them when they are young: 15-30 centimeters (6-12 inches) long. Bigger fruits don’t taste as good and also the texture is not so good.
You can grate them in a salad, cut them in halves and fill the “boats” with rice and raisins, make Greek moussaka, fry them, use them in stews or soups… And when that is still too much, you can freeze or DRY thin slices of your zucchini!

If you have too much fruit, try making fruit leather with it! I wrote about it in a previous blog.

Drying is a healthy option

Solar dryer with shelves
Our solar dryer (there needs to be glass in the diagonal frame) with mesh racks to dry our harvest

I like to cut my zucchini’s thinly and dry them in our solar dryer. Or in a not so hot oven with the door open.
Dried zucchini “chips” are a nice and healthy snack and you can use them in winter soups. For all dried fruits and vegetables: the calorie content does not change, but is concentrated into a smaller mass as moisture is removed. There is no change in fiber content, vitamins (except A) are mostly destroyed in the process of drying, some minerals may be lost during rehydration if soaking water is not used, and iron is not destroyed by drying.
For the best retention of nutrients in dried foods, store in a cool, dark, dry place and use within a year.

Storing your harvest in many ways
What also helps to have a wider variety, is to store your harvest in many ways. Besides drying, you can freeze it of course. Another way is fermenting your food and storing it in jars. More about that in a next blog!

Planning your meals ahead
That sounds a bit over-organized, doesn’t it? To me it sounds too Supermum. But in a way I do plan our meals. For instance: we like to eat meat only in the weekends. And we like to eat beans or lentils once a week, and pasta (spaghetti or lasagna) not more than once a week. So that’s potatoes 5 times a week.
Potatoes 5 times a week, 52 weeks a year, is 260 meals with potato. One person eats around 200 gram potatoes and we’re on average with 5 people so we need 260 times a kilo per year.
With those calculations I know how much to plant. (More about garden maths in a next blog)

If you want to see our annual family food planning to give yourself an idea, send me an e-mail

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Living self sufficient in 5 years

One of the reasons why we moved from the city (center) to the countryside (middle of nowhere), is that we wanted to live self sufficient. Or at least a lot more self sufficient.

In 2009, when we started living on our farm, I wrote down all the things that I wanted to achieve in the next 5 years, in 2014… NOW! I actually forgot about the paper and it was a nice surprise to find it back last spring. The biggest surprise however, is that almost everything I wrote down 5 years ago, is realised.

Targets in living self sufficient
click to enlarge our list of targets for 2014

Fruits, vegetables & mushrooms all year round: in summer and fall there is abundancy with all kinds of fruits & vegetables. I make an effort to grow a big variety, for more health and to encourage bio diversity. In winter and spring we have fresh kale, broccoli, sprouts, winter purslane, lambs lettuce, rucola and salad greens from the glasshouse.

We have a freezer full with meat and a storage room with big jars full with dried stuff, jams, compotes

For storing, I prefer drying in a solar dryer over freezing. Dried mushrooms, fruits & vegetables take much less space and you can store them for a very long time. A freezer constantly uses energy and there is a lot that can go wrong. Drying by the sun is easy and cheap.

Herbs: we have lots of herbs for tea and for the kitchen

We’re making syrups, jams & compotes, wines, liquers, cider (and vinegar when the apple cider turns sour).

Our chickens produce eggs (and manure) and when they are too old, they provide us with meat. The rabbits and snails we have only for the meat, and we mulch the garden beds with their straw.

What we don’t have, is goats, sheep or a cow for milk. A cow is too much (eats more than 20kg a day and gives too many liters of milk a day), goats are too naughty and sheep milk is too fat to drink (18%). and the fat is too small to skim/filter out. So with sheep you can make cheese, but not butter or milk.
I bake bread in our wood stove (from organic flour that I buy at the mill) and a bread oven is on the to do list.

When I give Peter a starters kit in brewing beer for Christmas (SSSHT don’t tell him!), we can check off the last thing on our list!