Who among us has not accidentally planted six zucchini plants—only to be buried in summer squash come August? Or, harvested a huge number of potatoes and later found them soft, growing something strange from their beady little eyes?
In her new book, Homegrown Pantry: A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties and Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round (Storey Publishing, 2017), Barbara Pleasant helps gardeners decide exactly how much to grow and how to preserve the bounty by freezing, canning, drying, fermenting and careful storage. Pleasant gardens in Virginia and is a regular contributor to Mother Earth News, but her tips work for vegetable gardeners in the North, too.
Homegrown Pantry begins with an exploration of what to grow and how to extend the growing season through use of tunnels and cold-frames, followed by the basics of food-preserving techniques and a very helpful calendar of when to expect the biggest harvests and the greatest need for preserving of different vegetables.
The bulk of the book, however, is a veg-by-veg discussion of how much to plant, how to grow, best varieties and how to preserve. It’s the details in these sections that gardeners will find most helpful.
For instance, if you want to grow sweet potatoes (as I do), you should figure 12 to 14 plants per person to grow enough for a year’s worth of delicious eating. Plant them after tomatoes and expect them to keep very well at a cool room temperature. For short growing seasons, like ours, she recommends ‘Georgia Jet’ or ‘Beauregard’.
With tomatoes, Pleasant recommends six plants per person for fresh eating and preserving. If you have a two-person household, for example, she suggest planting 12 total—two early tomatoes for eating and drying; two cherry tomatoes for fresh eating, freezing and drying; six paste tomatoes for canning; and two slicing tomatoes for fresh eating and drying.
In addition to covering vegetables, Homegrown Pantry also explores growing apples, berries, grapes and other plants those seeking to grow their own food would be interested in.
This is a great book to have at your side as you plan your food garden and order seeds. It will prevent you from ordering too much of one thing or too little of another. It also may act as a reality check. For instance, I don’t know where I’m going to put 24 to 28 sweet potato plants on my urban lot to feed my small household. However, I may grow 10 plants, which I would have room for, and enjoy them as long as they last.
If you are a serious vegetable gardener and food preserver, or someone who just enjoys dreaming about growing your own food, Barbara Pleasant’s new book is a great place to start.