Food in Uncertain Times: How to Grow and Store the 5 Crops You Need to Survive
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Many people cannot make long-chain omega-3 fatty acids of the sorts we need from plant omega-3s. Some people can do the conversion reactions. Others cannot. So some people can be vegetarians. Others cannot. I'm one of the people who needs to have my long-chain omega-3s provided to me by eating animal products. Commercial animal products don't work. The omega-3s have been stripped out of them by the unnatural ways the animals are raised. I need grass-fed meat or milk, or cold-water wild fish, or free-range eggs. Of these, it's the laying flock that is easiest to keep on a home scale. So to create a full diet, in addition to my garden, I need a home laying flock. So there is a chapter in The Resilient Gardener on keeping the home chicken or duck laying flock, integrating them with your gardening, and feeding them as much as possible on garden produce and home-grown feed.
MG: Talk more about slicing and drying your squash -- which is a delicious idea. How did you decide to store your squash this way?
CD: I stole the basic idea from a peasant, naturally. In this case it was Buffalo Bird Woman, the Hidatsa Indian whose expert gardening is described in Gilbert Wilson's book, Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden. We grow plenty of delicious gourmet-quality winter squash and use them as one of our main staples. But we also grow lots of zucchinis and other summer squash, eat them as summer squash, and slice and dry the oversized squash to produce an additional long-storing staple. For Buffalo Bird Woman, it was this sliced dried summer squash that was the main product of the squash patch, with fresh summer squash and mature winter squash being delicious but minor components. Buffalo Bird Woman had specially shaped knives, special squash sticks, and big drying racks -- an elaborate sophisticated technology -- all designed to produce huge amounts of dried summer squash as efficiently as possible.
I studied, tried, and created modern variants of Buffalo Bird Woman's methods. Then I evaluated dozens of different modern summer squash varieties for flavor and usefulness as dry squash.
Most dried summer squash actually don't taste like much. Some actually taste bad. However, some varieties have powerful, delicious, unique flavors when dried as summer squash slices, flavors so good that I would be happy to grow the squash just for drying. These varieties can be dried to be the basis for delicious soups and stews in winter. Different varieties give different flavors. In addition, some varieties make great dipping chips. Others make great sweet chips.
Delightfully, the fruits that are best for drying are bigger than those that are optimal for eating as summer squash. This means that with the right varieties, you can have all the stir-fried zucchini you want, and you can dry all those that escape you and get past the optimal stage for green eating. In this way, our summer squash patch produces both the fresh crop and an additional crop that is a long-storing staple. It also means that never again do we have to creep out in the dead of night to leave anonymous baskets of oversized zuchs on the doorsteps of our neighbors.
MG: Can you take us on a verbally illustrated tour of your garden? What does it look like? What do you have planted next to each other, and how do you space your rows?
CD: I've gardened in many ways in different years and eras, and I talk about them all in The Resilient Gardener. Sometimes I've had a few raised beds of tomatoes and greens in the back yard and a bigger patch of potatoes, corn, beans, and squash at the home of a friend. These days, my farm partner Nate and I garden on a couple of acres of good soil a few miles from home, a real luxury. Much of what is going on is determined by the fact that it is just our second season on that land.