The "Food Not Bought" pledge is a commitment to use all the food that you grow from your garden. This means one must eat it, preserve it, or give it away. The pledge doesn’t allow one to let excess harvest rot on the counter. The pledge seems like great fun in the spring when I am planting starts and looking at my garden with the joy of a child. It is great when you are eating a fresh garden salad or picking some vegetables for dinner. It becomes a little more difficult when you look at a pear tree that will yield several hundred pears all at the same time.
We are now in the glutton of the harvest. Between my back-yard garden and the garden at the farm we are swimming in produce. Keeping up with processing the food takes time and effort. The "Food Not Bought" pledge has been quite difficult this year with the added garden space; however, I remain committed.
On any given day, I find myself swimming in tomatoes, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, beans, okra, apples and herbs. We have started selling our tomatoes and peppers at the local farmers market, which takes away a little pressure. However, we do not sell many varieties of plants that we grow. We grow this food for ourselves and for preservation for the winter. So, the "Food Not Bought" pledge must be implemented for this food.
If considering something like green beans, the production continues through harvest season all the way to the first frost. I could go out each day and pick beans, yet I can’t possibly eat beans every day. So, how do I deal with these beans? It is an issue of supply and demand. When do the plants supply the food? When do I want to eat the food?
My answer for this dilemma is Micro-Batching. So, what does Micro-Batching mean? I take the produce and do small batches of canning, dehydrating or freezing. This process respects the flow of nature in your garden. The batches of preserved food add up to a lot of food not bought. Each time you miss out on one of those opportunities to preserve your harvest you are losing food and missing the plants peak flavor and yield. You are missing out on food that you could be using later when your plants are long dead and the winter has set in.
Let’s go back to the green bean scenario. If I go out in the garden and I get a few handfuls of beans, I go ahead and can as much as I picked. I like beans pickled and they are great to bring to parties. Dilly beans, as they are often called, are great as a garnish, on their own, or cut up in salads. I have even been known to put them in Bloody Mary drinks. While it may seem easier to do 12 jars of dilly beans at once the reality is that my plants will product them slowly over the season. I may end up with 12 jars, yet they will have been canned in groups of two or three at a time.
You may wonder how I have time to run these Micro-Batches of food. It does not take much to boil up a little brine and water bath a few jars while I am preparing dinner for my family. I try to multitask and use time that I would normally be in the kitchen anyway. I keep a good supply of preserving options ready to go. I keep jars, lids and rings for canning. I keep my dehydrator clean and ready to go. And I keep some good thick zip lock bags for freezing. I keep the necessary things ready so I have no excuse to miss out on any of this food not bought.
Here is a blog I wrote about this back in 2015, if you want to know more. It is about preserving as the harvest comes in.
I challenge you to take the "Food Not Bought" pledge and see how much food you can get out of your garden. You very well may be pleasantly surprised with all of the wonderful uses for your harvest.