Fill Your Pantry!

By November, most of us in the greater Portland/Vancouver/Hood River area are facing the fact that winter is truly coming and we need to prepare for the inevitable Cold Weather. Many of us do things like drain &/or cap outdoor faucets, pack away summer clothes and pull out winter coats. Some of us need to make sure our propane or wood pile is topped up; others are hastily trying to finish outdoor projects before the inescapable rains.

Many are simply too busy in the fall, working or getting kids to school, to do any preparation. We are always caught off guard. For this group – especially those who want to support their local farmers – there is, thank goodness, a yearly event called Fill Your Pantry! Since most Farmers Markets are closed by November, these events are excellent opportunities to purchase staple and storage crops directly from your local socially responsible family farmers.

Rockford Grange is hosting Hood River’s Pantry on Saturday, Nov. 4rd. In Portland, Fill Your Pantry will be Sunday, Dec. 3rd, hosted by Friends of Family Farmers, and will also include a Winter Squash ‘Sagra’ (festival), a celebration with family-friendly activities with the goal of putting the “Winter” back into Winter squash.

If you didn’t grow your own or purchase from local farmers, but still want to do the preserving yourself, you can fill your pantry, basement, root cellar or even closet with kitchen staples, and also support your local farmers. There are many crops that “capture and store” the summer such as onions, garlic, shallots, potatoes, many kinds of dry beans and all manner of grains. Gone are the fresh and local juicy red-ripe tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and sweet corn. But you can enjoy the bounty of the summer season all winter long in the form of canned and dried tomatoes, dried peppers, root crops, pickles & dilly beans, sauerkrauts made with cabbage, carrots and more. All of these items are found at Fill Your Pantry events, and can be purchased in large quantities to stock up for the winter.

Some crops like winter squash grow with their own storage containers. There are actually 2 types: Fall squashes, which include Delicata, acorn-types, pumpkins and other smaller ones. Spaghetti squash is technically a fall squash, though like most fall squashes, it can – in the right storage conditions – last for many months into the winter.

True winter squashes are so named because they actually reach their peak flavor in storage after the winter solstice, Dec. 21st. These are usually larger and include Hubbard-types, Oregon’s own heirloom, Sweet Meat, and most Kabochas. Fall and winter squashes are ideally stored at about 50˚F and 50% humidity. The floor or a shelf in a back room will generally do fine.

For omnivores, Fill Your Pantry vendors also offer local ranchers” frozen beef, chicken and pork from their pastured-raised animals. Usually an OSU Master Food Preserver is available to answer any questions and provide a handout about proper storage conditions for everything.

When the rain won’t stop, the wind is howling or the snow is too deep to drive, you’ll smile contentedly, knowing you don’t need to travel anywhere
because your pantry and freezer are full of delicious, wholesome, locally grown products. At the same time, you will have strengthened the local food system!

Shari Sirkin is the Executive Director of Friends of Family Farmers.

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