By Joe Cowan
Director of Operations
Early September in Maine is a beautiful time of year. The summer heat and humidity has started to give way to a crisp and clean autumn warmth. The farmer’s markets are abuzz all over the area with profusion and variety. At this point our freezer is about a third full with tomato sauce, hot sauce, and a few other small-batch things that will remind us of the harvest the previous year and give us something to look forward to as we look forward.
To get the most out of harvest season, prioritize whatever your local farmer grows over everything else. They will be able to deliver a much fresher and in some cases customizable products to you that will suit your needs. For example, most farms will grow multiple types of a certain fruit or vegetable. If they have the peppers you like you can ask for say 10 pounds of jalapenos to be left on the plant to ripen to a deep red before picking. Or better yet, as I have mentioned in the past, you can help them plan their varieties in early winter when they are buying seeds. The result of asking for fully ripened or a certain variety of fruit or vegetable can make all the difference in your hot sauce, kimchi, or whatever else you are planning.
Next, don’t try to do too much. This may sound obvious, but it can be very easy to get carried away. One year I had asked for an orange watermelon to be grown to make watermelon juice. I got over 100 pounds of fresh delicious watermelons to make juice and eat. This wouldn’t have been a problem except that I also had over 50 pounds of Roma tomatoes to make a sauce with. I was forced to prioritize the tomatoes ahead of some of the watermelons and then I ended up giving some away or else let them rot. It was a rookie mistake, but it taught me a valuable lesson about seasonality and not attempting to cram all of the things I wanted into a small window.
Try one medium project per month as early as June and go through November. Make enough to try out immediately and then save the rest for winter. Any method of saving food works well and it definitely pays to start with the basics. Freezing is the easiest to get going with and once you have a few harvest seasons under your belt you can graduate to more complex and interesting methods. This year we are going to attempt to make either apple or pear brandy if we can find the right type of fruit.
*Note from the author: it is with a heavy heart that I am writing this blog. As I sit here in my office with a cool ocean breeze I can’t help but think about our west coast roots and all the friends and family we still have in the Bay area and all over. Everyone we know who is on the west coast has been impacted by the fires in some way. We are lucky to have such great partners and we are all hoping for rain!