Filed under: Community Gardens, Creating Community, Food Storage | Tags: Curing, growing food, root crops
Here’s a picture of some our recently dug garlic and onions curing on the front porch.
It’s an attractive look, I know. I’m wondering if my new neighbors would object to my hanging them up around the perimeter of our front porch for a few weeks like we did while living in the country? The college age kids that live next door and the yoga studio patrons across the street probably wouldn’t care, but I’m thinking others in the neighborhood might think the Twilight characters have moved in so THIS YEAR we’ll cure them on the porch floor where they can’t be seen. By the time we harvest these once-a-year crops again, I’m hoping the strangers on our block will have become our friends, and they’ll simply consider the ‘curing practice’ par for our course. Better yet, maybe they’ll be wanting to cure some on their own front porches!
Curing is essential to successful long-term storage of roots, tubers and bulbs. It’s not the same as drying, where heat is typically used to remove moisture from foods. Curing allows harvesting wounds to heal and a new, protective layer of cells to form. I think root crops are some of the easiest vegetables to grow and store, and seem to provide us with more nutritional ‘bang for the buck’ than many other veggies in our garden. They don’t have nearly as many insect pests as above ground crops seem to, don’t need to be watered as frequently, and best of all, need no processing other than proper curing for a week or so before being stored away. I’ve successfully stored nuts, gourds, pumpkins, winter squash, white, red and sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, beets, carrots and cabbages using age-old techniques of layering the veggies in bins of dried leaves or straw, buckets of moist sand, mesh bags or simply spread in single layers in repurposed grape boxes or cheap plastic totes. No canning jars or freezer space is required, but proper curing is. Curing can be assisted by the use of ventilated sheds in regions where solar radiation and/or relative humidity is high or natural air movement is low. East Tennessee has a long history of hanging fresh-cut tobacco in ventilated barns for curing. Produce in sacks can be stacked in the shade on canvas tarpaulins under one or more ceiling fans.
That gives me an idea: a communal curing and drying shed, made out of repurposed pallets, could be used by many neighbors for everything from firewood to herbs. Would Johnson City allow us to erect a curing shed within the boundaries of the community garden? hmmm…Don’t laugh-it’s already been done (although on a much larger scale below than even I imagined!)
As humanity begins to TRANSITION to a “post peak everything” world, low-tech, community-oriented solutions will prove to be the best way to adapt to this profoundly different world; we must begin now to make radical changes to our attitudes, behaviors, and expectations-and keep ‘searching for a cure’!
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