The Harvest

The practice of harvesting goes back eons, whether you are participating for the first time this year or you’re an experienced ‘collector gatherer,’ you are partaking in something that has helped us along in our human existence.

This season, there has been a bountiful array of herbs, vegetables and fruit, and I’ve been harvesting since June, yet, there is much to do.  A plan of action may be needed if you too got a bit excited over-planting this year (as I may have with some tomatoes). Between the over-planting and the intense heat we got this summer, certain plants tended to go to seed rather quickly.  But there is always the important task of seed saving.

Getting on with it, I harvested seeds from healthy parent plants into brown paper bags.  This can be handy for seeds that are ready to disperse with a gentle snip, enclose the bag around the seed head and cut.

Mason Jar Fermentation

Seeds and flowers, if loosely placed, will dry well in just an open paper bag.  If you have a larger volume consider drying racks, or make your own version.  Growing up I remember we used wooden screens that were left behind from the previous owner who was a beekeeper. We would loosely place herbs, in a warm unlit and well-ventilated warehouse, to speed drying and preserve their color and nutrients from the sunlight. Then bagged them or stored them in jars for later use.

This year, as much as possible, I am going to be preserving most vegetables in their fresh ‘living’ state making some live cultured ferments, otherwise known as lacto-fermentation. This method of preserving is one that predates our modern methods of canning and having fridges and freezers to store fresh produce. Fermenting your vegetables will create beneficial enzymes, natural strains of probiotics and help preserve your food. Adding a small portion of your finished ferment to meals also makes digestion of food much easier.

Bean in Weck Jars

Inspired by a simple method demonstrated by Todd Caldecott in his online video sauerkraut, Indian carrot pickle, and fermented chickpeas, I set out to make my cultured beans, and will be doing the same with the carrots once they are ready.

Using a heritage mixed variety of beans that grew abundantly, I mixed up 2 cups of fresh water and two tablespoons salt to make a brine, cut the tops off the beans, filled two sterilized mason jars, added minced garlic, dried red pepper, gochu (Korean chile used in kimchi) and celery seeds.

Also, my husband and I adore a Salvadorean dish called Cortido, it is similar to sauerkraut but traditionally pickled. We’ve been fermenting using this recipe for a few years now so this was actually made in mid-July using local produce from the farmers market, as this one I like to let ferment for six weeks in a crock.

You’ll need 1 to 2 heads of cabbage, remove the core,

3 or 4 carrots,
2 jalapenos (keep seeds if you like heat)
1 tbsp. dried red pepper
2 tbsp. oregano
2 tbsp. sea salt.

Clean and chop all the vegetables into uniform pieces, relatively small, or use a food processor, just don’t over process.  Place the vegetables into a large ceramic/glass/ or stainless steel mixing bowl, add 2 tablespoons sea salt and begin to knead like dough for roughly ten minutes.  You should have lots of juice extracting from the cabbage.  Pack tightly into sterilized jars, and top with the juice, ensuring there are no veggies sticking out of the brine. If there is not enough juice, add 1 tsp. salt to fresh water (not tap water due to chlorine and fluoride which will inhibit the beneficial bacteria from growing) and top up your jars leaving an inch for air.  Ferment this for 2-3 weeks.

I like the weck jars, they are super easy to work with due to the wide tops and are all glass so no risk of the metal lids corroding and contaminating your cortido since ferments are acidic. If you are so fortunate to have mason jars with glass lids those work great for large batches too. You will need to open the jars daily to release the pressure from within. This is called “burping”.

As for the rest of the harvest, it will be dried for teas and medicinal preparations, or tinctured fresh in brandy, apple cider vinegar, or vegetable glycerine. Other preparations abound with traditional cannings, but this year I’m looking forward to the more gut friendly ferments. Like I mentioned, I’m anticipating lots of tomatoes that will also be turned into cultured salsas, yum.  Warning: fermenting gets addictive and most all vegetables ferment rather well! Happy Harvest.

Weck Jar Fermentation

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alecia s.
alecia s.
Alecia has been inspired and fascinated with nature since a young age. She has worked directly with plants for over two decades... from growing them in gardens to enjoying them as food, and regularly using them as medicine. During this time she has been making herbal products for health and wellness and discovered she really loved inspiring and teaching others the ease of making handmade and homegrown products. She has studied and been inspired by herbalists like Rosemary Gladstar, Robert Rodgers, Beverly Gray, Jeanne Rose as well as other local herbalists and horticulturalists.

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