I paid closer attention to the shape of my produce over the course of this last growing season. Partly because I’ve been working with a number of projects that are starting to figure out what it might be meaningful to measure in gardens, I’ve started thinking about how much food I collect, and what state it’s in. I had never really thought to account for how much of the food I produced was eaten by woodchucks or slugs – because I wasn’t eating it, I was just thinking of it not existing, effectively. But prompted by the wonderful Food Dignity project, I started to think differently about the produce that dried up on the stems because I hadn’t come to pick it (the dried beans and raspberries were delicious, and a handful would have been a pint fresh!), or the strawberries that would have been more edible if I had better air circulation, or the zucchinis I might have had if I could figure out how to distract the woodchuck.
None of this is to say that I feel like I must account for – and possess – all the production possible, but it also made me feel somewhat more successful, and to notice, furthermore, the different stages along the life cycle of a plant where it might be useful, something that had previously been tacit knowledge. For example, I live in a climate where fava beans don’t thrive, but they do well enough – and I can eat the greens if I don’t get enough beans. The purslane and sorrel that grow in my beds no matter what I do are likewise delicious, and reliable even when the rabbits eat whatever was more intentionally planted.
This attention to the stages and close relations of the produce I intended has also spilled over to the produce I find myself sorting as I prepare for winter. Sorting through a ten pound box of blueberries for freezing, for example, I found myself eating ones that might be too mushy to hold up well in my Individual Quick Freeze process – and also sorting out all the ones that seemed questionably ripe; it seemed like those might justify the high amounts of sugar called for in blueberry pie. And all of a sudden I gained a new appreciation of the function of pies!
Pies’ main function may be to deal with questionable fruit! This seems obvious enough in retrospect—although I’m not sure I’ve ever categorized pie as a holding tank for not-freezer-worthy fruit. And this categorization of such a basic staple has made me wonder what other functional food categories I’ve been overlooking at this time of needing to figure out how to squeeze more holding space out of my larder.