Born and raised in the North East of United States, I naturally think of a summer growing season. A fall harvest, winter rest and spring planting follow. In Florida, however, this rhythm is reversed. In summer, one retreats from the scorching sun and heavy rain and little can be grown. The milder fall and spring, and much of winter, however, offer a long growing season, although in sandy soil. To live more connected with the cycles, I decided to preserve food during the times of availability to live on during those of little offerings. So, I canned, pickled and dried fruits and vegetables as I could.
In a culture that has cultivated a shunning of long-established ways of living with the earth, which has, in fact, usurped them, with inventions forged with hopes of comfort, ease and speed, one is left much to his/her imagination to envision how to live again with the seasons. One must reconsider what makes sense and rediscover methods of growing and preserving food. Unable to grasp all the variables involved, I simply sought to take whatever steps I could in this direction, knowing I would piece together a lifestyle as I went along.
I knew one thing, however, that while I could live on canned potatoes, tomatoes and mushrooms, beans, soups and possibly string beans, I could not consume canned greens. After much consideration as to how to preserve leafy vegetables, I discovered the purpose of pesto. Crushed greens in a paste of salt, vinegar, oil and garlic would keep. So, I delighted in making sunflower sprout, arugula, kale and red & green Swiss chard pestos.
I dried bananas, mangoes, papaya and kale for summer smoothies. I found a way to preserve strawberry and blueberries as jams, by adding only lemon and a small amount of fructose. I stored garlic cloves with oil in jars in my refrigerator. I canned mango and eggplant chutneys, two sauces that I added to bean and rice dishes giving them a bouquet of seasoning.
Throughout the summer, I partook of my store of food, as my garden sat mostly fallow, except for a few hot weather crops, like okra, yard long beans , cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes, which grew on sun and rain. Mostly, however, cover crops flourished, the seeds of which I had received from the local extension office, interested in folks trying traditional varieties like “Lap Lap”, “Velvet Bean” and “Sun Hemp”. I rested from gardening and put my body and mind to other tasks.
To supplement my preserved food, however, I had hoped to sprout broccoli and mustard seeds that I had saved from my garden, as well as grow and juice wheat-grass. But, amidst my busyness, I didn’t do so, and half-way through the summer, feeling the need for live greens, I bought a head of California-grown lettuce weekly from the farmer’s market. Thereupon, I discovered a farmer selling seasonal fruits like mango and avocado as well as summer greens like Malabar spinach. I bought some of each, realizing that I could buy locally grown food over the summer and started to do so. I also began spinach plants, by placing the shoots I bought in water, so I could grow my own next summer.
My boyfriend has begun turning the green manure from the cover crops into the garden to enrich it for the coming season. I have started seedlings, some from seeds I’d saved from the last season, for my fall garden. I am still pretty stocked up with canned and dried foods, but hurricane season has not yet run its course, and these may come in handy yet.