In recent months many new folks have taken up gardening. At least some of them have show an interest in increasing their food security as COVID-19 and climate change impact the globe. We at CML have been proud to support this growing literacy in many forms: our seed library, our work with BTLT to teach at their garden and in our lecture space, partnering with SNAP-Ed to bring you their online 10 Tips Course, our participation on the Merrymeeting Food Council’s Food Security Workgroup, our Library of Things, our extensive permaculture, DIY and gardening resource collection, and more. We are here to help our community solve problems, and right now, we are proud to help connect folks to resources to help them meet some of their basic needs.
Basic needs include subsistence crops. Typically these are types of crops that provide enough calories to sustain a body, or the number of growers that work on the land, throughout the year. While variety in diet is important to make sure you can access all of your essential nutrients, historically, across numerous cultures, sustenance crops were supplemented with foraged and hunted ingredients, diversifying farmer’s and gardener’s diets.
If you are a beginner gardener (and/or cook) before you worry about calories, it is more important to grow what you like. I love blue potatoes so grow them in vertical spaces; we love curry, so we have a curry plant. Of course, you may also want to try something new. You can find a bunch of great recipes in Know Your Veggies. I find kohlrabi worth growing, as do many local farmers, but my daughter constantly suggests that I replace it (and most other crops) with peas.
A classic combination of sustenance crops include corn, beans and squash, a combination often referred to as the Three Sisters. Corn provides a stalk for beans to climb, and squash provides the ground cover. To learn more about the indigenous culture of this area you may wish to explore the many programs of the Abbe Museum or consider joining our local MIAG Midcoast Indigenous Awareness Group and the book club they host here at CML. A reference librarian can also recommend many more resources to familiarize yourself with indigenous land uses. Other common staple crops are grown in other places in the world include rice, cassava, beans, pulses, grains, and more. Many of these can and are being grown in Maine at the garden level but at present MOFGA’s guide of seasonal produce remains a good guide for beginner gardeners aspiring to successfully have their garden yield end up in the kitchen.
Whatever you’ll grow you’ll want to keep for a longer time than simply the summer. Preserving the harvest can take many forms, but know that we have tools like our dehydrator and canning kits at the Library of Things that can help. Be sure to check out Cooperative Extension’s Food Preservation Guides and make sure to utilize our extensive gardening DVDs, books, recipes and things as soon as we reopen to check out. Cheryl Wixson provided MOFGA with a great guide for how much food to store to get through a Maine year.
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