I'm not a foodie but I have a couple foodie friends who would rather eat dirt than a winter tomato from the supermarket. After hearing their arguments and giving my taste buds some time to reflect, I am beginning to agree. At the Armsrong Education Center, I am trying something new this year: my partner, Sarah, and I bought 40 pounds of organic heirloom tomatos from Amawalk Farm in Katonah, NY, and processed them into sauce for the winter. Come January, when the mealy tomatoes get shipped in from who knows where, we will be thawing out bags of tomato sauce for pastas, pizzas, chillis and more. Here is what the process looked like:
|A quick rinse|
|Some of the tomatoes were a bit under ripe so we set them aside to eat in a few days. They will not be made into sauce. This informative pictures appeared on the side of the tomato box. The tomato faces are cute.|
|We cut up the sauce tomatoes and removed any damaged parts. On average, each tomato had one or two small spots that needed to be cut out and composted. This step took roughly 2 hours.|
|We placed the tomatoes into a oven pan and added good olive oil, salt and cloves of garlic. We broiled the tomatoes for roughly 25 minutes. We stirred the tray two times to make sure the garlic didn't burn.|
|We spooned the sauce into freezer bags|
What does freezing bags of tomato sauce have to do with Living Lighter on the Land?
1) Food is nature, nature is food. We can't fully understand and appreciate nature without understanding our food and bigger 'food systems'. We may not think of a single asparagus plant as part of the ecosystem, but when you consider our country's land cover, agriculture plays no small role. In America, the millions of acres of agriculutral land (formerly wild forests, prairies and wetlands) still connect with the greater ecosystems through their soil, water, plants, animals and the atmoshphere. There's no two ways about it: our agricultural operations are big part of our new ecosystems. To rethink your place in nature is to rethink your place in your food system.
When I thaw out my sauce in the winter I will know exactly where it came from, who picked it, who shipped it, who cleaned it, who cooked it, and who bagged it. That's food safety. Also, I will know how the farm operates, the philosophy of the farmers, how the farmers treat their land and how the farm fits into the greater ecosystem. That's land stewardship.
2) Eating in season, or perhaps more accurately stated, buying in season. When we buy food out of season, that food gets shipped from very far away. Southern California and Florida are the closest large winter-food producing regions, and much of our winter food comes from Central and South America. A tomato that travels 3,000 miles (and the fuel that was required to do so) doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I'd rather buy it from a farm five miles away and freeze it.
Freezing is just one option. You can pickle, jar, smoke, cure, and dehydrate your food to keep it for the winter. It's surely not easier than driving to the supermarket, but it puts you back in control of your food. Plus, you can feel good knowing that you would have made your grandmother proud.