Adventures in local food

It’s hard to eat local food in the winter here in New England — only one or two growers are as adept as Four Seasons Farm at growing vegetables year-round in our climate. So unless you live near Four Seasons Farm (which we don’t), if you want to eat local food in the winter you have to figure out how to store it yourself.

That can be difficult for those of us who are apartment dwellers. Without a basement we can’t have a root cellar, of course. This year, Carol and I bought some extra local apples and carrots to store in the bottom of the refrigerator, but those were gone by Thanksgiving. We bought half a dozen extra Butternut squash and some pumpkins, but the ones that were left by Christmas time had begun to spoil and we had to throw them out. But this fall I also got a Hubbard squash at Verrill Farm in Concord. The blue-green rind of Hubbards is so thick they keep well for months, even at room temperature. We decided to cook ours yesterday.

A Hubbard squash is big, typically weighing five to twenty pounds. They can be tough to peel. The way I usually open up a Hubbard squash is to whack it with a hatchet. Then I chop it into manageable chunks, which we cook (rind and all) until the orange part is soft and you can scoop it off the rind with a spoon. But when you hit that Hubbard with a hatchet, little chunks of squash rind fly everywhere: in your face, off the walls, down the hallway. It’s a mess.

This year I had a better idea. I held an axe on the ground with the sharp edge pointing up, and Carol dropped the Hubbard onto the axe. The squash split open, but without little pieces flying everywhere. We did that a couple more times to break up the pieces. Then I attacked those smaller pieces with a chopping knife (think “Samurai chef!”) until they were small enough to cook: whack! whack! whack! whack! It was very satisfying.

Now we have several pounds of cooked Hubbard squash in the freezer. Sure, we could have gone to the supermarket and gotten little boxes of the same stuff. It wouldn’t have tasted nearly as good, it would have used gallons of Diesel fuel to truck it here, and I wouldn’t have gotten out all my aggressions (whack!).

Next year, I’m going to get three Hubbards.

5 thoughts on “Adventures in local food

  1. James Field

    In Transylvania the root cellars are amazing. Also the variety of ways that people can and preserve fruits for the winter. There were apples, potatoes and carrots underneath the house and we used our mudroom as a cold storage that stayed somewhere between a refrigerator and a freezer. Cabbage was pickled with salt and horseradish in big drums underneath everyone’s houses (alongside the barrels for fermenting the plums to make palinka). The pickling and canning reminds me that fresh is not the only way to eat local.

  2. Administrator

    Scott — We’ll be doing Extreme Hubbard Squash next year.

    James — There’s an outfit in western Massachusetts (not so very far from here as it’s a small state) called “Real Pickle” that does honest-to-goodness salt-cured pickles and sauerkraut. if we look for it, even us apartment dwellers can eat some local food in winter.

    Jean — Somehow I can’t quite imagine doing that in our apartment — exhaust fumes — squash sawdust everywhere….

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