(HOST) Cold weather is just ahead, and commentator and gardener Henry Homeyer is putting up food for winter.
(HOMEYER) I was chatting with a friend outside the village post office the other day, talking about our gardens. My friend men- tioned that she was going to make a stodge with her leftover vegetables. “A stodge,” I asked? “Yes,” she said. It’s a soup of all the garden vegetables she has on hand – including those that are damaged and need to be used up right away. I looked it up when I got home, and sure enough, a stodge is a thick, filling soup or stew. I guess I’ve been making stodges for years, and never knew it. Got some cabbage, potatoes, carrots, kale, beets and onions? Add water, simmer, and you’ve got a stodge.
My vegetable garden is running out of steam, and cold weather is just around the corner. It’s time to finish putting up food for the winter.
I’ve been making tomato paste with the hordes of tomatoes we’ve picked in anticipation of frost. It’s easy. I wash the tomatoes, cut out any bad spots, and toss them in the food processor. I puree them until they’re liquid, then add to a big stock pot. When it’s full, I simmer the tomatoes until most of the water has gone, and I can literally stand up a spoon in the pot. After it’s cooled, I spoon the bright red tomato paste into ice cube trays, and put them in the freezer. Later I put the cubes in freezer bags, and they’re ready for use – in a nice convenient size.
Potatoes store well, and we can usually eat them all winter long and still have enough for planting a new crop in the spring. They keep best in a cool location with high humidity. I keep mine in the basement where the temperature stays between 40 and 50 all winter. If you have a dry basement, you can assure a higher humidity for your spuds by storing them in plastic pails and putting an inch of moist sand in the bottom of each. They’ll need air circulation, so don’t put a tight lid on the bucket if you do this. And if you have a warm basement, try keeping the buckets near the bulkhead doors – but keep an eye on a strategically placed thermometer during cold snaps – frozen potatoes are no good.
I’ve never had much luck storing pumpkins or winter squashes much past Christmas. This week I’ll try to find time to steam my blue hubbard squash, then scoop out the flesh and freeze it in bags. I love squash in winter soups, especially one I make with fresh ginger, peanut butter, and hot peppers.
My garden provides me with much more than just fresh vegetables in summer. It gives me exercise from April to October, a taste of the garden in winter, and something to dream about once the snow flies. I’m not ready for winter yet, but a nice bowl of stodge might put me in the mood.
This is the gardening guy, Henry Homeyer, in Cornish Flat, N.H.
Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.