The inaugural Root & Branch Food Preservation Drop In happened yesterday! The idea is that I will be preserving whatever is in season every (or at least most) Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7pm for the duration of the growing season. Folks are invited to drop in to help and learn about different ways to optimize seasonal, locally grown produce for year round local eating independence from corporate agribusiness.
Week #1 concentrated mostly on rhubarb, though we also explored asparagus (which is covered in a different post). I wanted to demonstrate a variety of ways to preserve this hardy perennial, so I chose three different forms of rhubarb preservation: freezing, canning, and drying.
The first step in preserving any food is to find the best and freshest source. This doesn’t mean you need to grow it yourself, though it’s wonderful to be able to step outside and eat and preserve your own homegrown food straight off the plant. If you don’t have your own garden, the next best thing is to share and exchange with friends and neighbours who have more than they need. Many people that grow rhubarb wind up with more than they need, and you’ll also come across it in the darndest places (like in my favourite local park the Art Park, which is located at the corner of 11th Ave. and Halifax St. in Regina).
If you must buy rhubarb, do so directly from a local farmer at the farmers’ market or a u-pick, or purchase it from an independent business that sources local, seasonal produce directly from local farmers. In any of these cases, you’re able to get the produce as soon after it’s been harvested as possible. This way, it will be tastiest, most nutrient-dense, and you’ll be supporting your local food economy.
I’m lucky enough to have two decent-sized rhubarb patches growing in my urban backyard (and a couple more out at the farm), so I was able to start preserving immediately after harvesting it!
When harvesting rhubarb, twist and pull larger stems out at the base of the plant. Leave smaller stocks to keep growing for later harvests, and always leave some of stocks for the plant to keep growing. Don’t harvest rhubarb in its first season, and only harvest a few stems in its second season. Cut off the leaves, and remember that they’re poisonous! Compost them, or experiment with making a natural pesticide from them. For more detailed info on harvesting rhubarb, go here.