Breakfast this morning, as it’s been several times a week since August, started by walking down the steps to our unfinished basement and grabbing 2 Red Baron onions, 3-4 Desiree potatoes (resistant to Late Blight!) and a head of garlic. I start the skillet heating (low) and then add a triple glug of Olive oil. While that heats I peal,crush, and mince 4-5 cloves of garlic. This goes into the heated oil to get the flavor into the oil – the fragrance wafting up from the stove is immediate. I turn back and dice the two medium onions and add them to the skillet along with some salt and a healthy mix of rosemary, paprika, and whatever else is laying around- I am particularly partial to Pennsey’s Fox Point seasoning. While these flavors are mixing with the oil I cut up 4 medium potatoes into 1/2″ cubes. As they’re heirlooms, the skin and all its nutrition stays on. More salt and herbs and pepper go in. If I am feeling like the kids need a bit more protein (vegetarian since birth) for the day, I will cut up a Field Roast “soy-sage” and throw it in. [Field Roast is HANDS DOWN the best “soy-sage” on the market. I miss brats more than any meat, and their Italians are DAMN close. Of course local eggs or meat would make it 100% local breakfast, but we’re talking veggie skillet here.]. Every 5 minutes or so I roll it around with a wooden spatula, but scorching is not so much an issue on the low heat, but reduce the heat after 20 minutes or so. It takes about 45 minutes to make, but its worth every second –each of the simple flavors has room to expand on your palette and the breakfast is relished by everyone from my gourmand wife to my 6 yr old daughter.
Here is the kicker. The garlic was picked in August, the onions in late September, and the potatoes in late November (though they were ready in August – I like to let the soil store my food). All this food is from my own gardens… and I do NOT have a Root Cellar. The most important prep for the storage of these items was to pick them properly – letting the onions and garlic cure well in the garage and allowing the potatoes to “skin” over in the ground and not picking them in wet soil. All of this ensures that the produce keeps as much of its water inside as possible. Then I bag them up in the 5# bags from Fed-Co –basically thick paper bags, putting them in tripled up lunch bag would work too. Finally I take them to the basement and put them on a low shelf near the concrete floor. Final step? Close the one air vent down there. Temps are in the 50’s, and I make no a adjustments for humidity. I should also mention that these varieties were chosen a year ago for storage when I ordered seed. Walla Walla onions store for crap, you need a strong, pungent onion and a firm spud – Yukons, Desiree, German Butterball and a dozen others are great, fingerlings and carola not so much.
I’ve read the books on Root Cellaring, studied the respiration rates of vegetables, and taken measurements of the conditions in my basement. All of that told me that I couldn’t store my produce, so for the past 2 years we ate or sold it all by December, forcing us to the grocery store (GASP!) for potatoes. This year I said screw it, and put 100#;s of spuds, 20#’s of onions, and 10#;s of garlic in bags and stored them as I stated above. My onions are firm, the potatoes wholesome, and much of the garlic is in good shape. Am I getting waste? Not yet in the potatoes, some of the onions are softening, and a growing (ha!) portion of the garlic is sprouting. But its mid frickin January –I have every reason to believe that the spuds and onions will still be strong in a month, at which time I will have early greens sprouting in the Hoopty. Rutabaga and especially sweet potatoes which prefer mid humidity and 55 degrees, will last even longer.
My house is only 5 years old, and built to new standards – no sand floor, no cold air exchange to the outside, and forced air heat sucking out all the moisture. But I have firm spuds in the basement. And its mid January. We can do this people! Choose your cultivars for storage, prep them right in the field, and eat healthy, local, and better in the dead of Wisconsin’s Winter.
I’ve said it before, the war for re-localizing our food will be won in the dark cold trenches of February week 3. But what a war to fight! This breakfast is literally the best meal you can’t buy. No grocer (yet) sells Desiree spuds, Red Baron onions, or Music garlic. Saving the world never tasted so good!
Be the Change!