Archive for the ‘Survival Food Storage’ Category

Essential to Survival Food Storage: Eat and Rotate

Even when stored correctly, foods do not last forever. If they did, that would certainly make our lives easier. But they don’t. Therefore, there is a concept you must follow in order to make sure that your survival food stores don’t go bad before you get to them. It is referred to as “eat and rotate.”

Put simply, this means that you should always be eating your survival food stores, then replacing your inventory. It can be hard, at first, to get past the idea that you shouldn’t be eating your survival food storage, and the idea that you should just be hoarding it. But slowly and steadily, make sure you talk yourself through this notion, because it is important to regularly not only eat and rotate your foods, but also make sure you know how to cook and prepare your survivalist foods before the time comes that you must rely on them. The key is to rotate so that you are replenishing your food stores constantly.

The “eat and rotate” rule also addresses another issue that is very important to survivalist food storage. This is the fact that what we store for survival should be things that we are eating as part of our normal diets. If we must suddenly transition to our “normal” diet to a whole bunch of foods we never, ever eat, then our bodies will not acclimate well. So our survival diets should closely resemble our “normal” diets, (as much as possible).

The very first key to the “eat and rotate” rule is that you must make sure that all of your survival food stores are clearly organized and labeled. You should never have to spend time hunting for items. Some people prefer to store like items together. Others prefer to store one full day’s worth of food together. Each day’s food can then be boxed and stored together. It is a good idea to store items together that have like expiration dates. I find that this is actually more helpful than grouping items by food type in terms of insuring that nothing expires before I get to it. Realistically, canned foods will last a lot longer than the expiration date that is listed on them. However, if you want to get the optimum level of nutrients, you should not exceed this date by far.

A reliable labeling method will be your best friend when it comes to rotating your food storage. You should always, always label food items with the date when you freeze or can them. You should know exactly what is in your food storage at all times.

If you open a large container of food, such as a 5-gallon bucket of rice, it is time to then break the rice down into smaller receptacles, such as quart mason jars. This will help food items to stay fresh once you have broken their storage seal. The same thing goes for dehydrated foods, such as peanut butter. If you break a large container of it down into smaller jars, it will help each “batch” to stay fresh, rather than tasting old and stale by the time to get to the bottom.

Keep a running list at all times of what you are eating out of your survival food storage. This way, when you go to the store or it’s time to do your own canning, you know exactly what you need to replace.

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How Does Radiation Get Into Food and Water?

Image source: Mike Morpeth

God bless the people of the country of Japan, as they continue to cope with the aftermath of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that struck them earlier this month.

Immediately, Japan’s residents began to face a food shortage and near-empty grocery store shelves, as depicted here in the above photo from Digital Journal, and the below one from CNN.com. With nearly no gasoline available, food simply could not be transported to stores. Thirst and hunger have been common problems since March 11.

Image credit: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Now, when Japan is already facing food shortages, they are facing yet another problem with their food supply. Eleven different types of produce, along with milk, and city tap water, have all tested positive for radiation. Some samples of spinach tested contained as much as 27 times the legal amount of radiation.
 
So the next logical question here is, how did this radiation get into the food, water, and milk? Because of the very nature of the word “radiation,” and the fact that it is invisible, it is easy to imagine it traveling through the air in waves, as from a microwave, through walls and buildings. But this is not the case. What actually happens is that radioactive particles(of which there are 4 main types) bind to particles of dust in the air, and can travel for a distance through the air before settling to the ground. This means that radioactive particles, such as such as cesium-137 and iodine-131, that escaped from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant traveled through the air, then settled on surrounding crop fields. Crops with a large surface area above the earth, such as spinach leaves, make them more likely to accumulate dangerous levels of radiation. And it does not get into milk by way of the actual milk carton or even the milk processing plant. It gets into milk because radiation settles on the grass, then the cows eat the grass.
 
Experts say that little is known about the long-term effects of consuming radiation on food and in water. Many sources say that the amount of radiation that people could intake from eating produce from the Fukushima prefecture, and others that surround the nuclear power plant, is not likely to cause health problems. However, understandably, many people are frightened, and avoiding purchasing the items in question, such as spinach and milk.
 
This is, in my opinion, yet another example of when and why a survival food source is an absolute necessity. Under normal circumstances, rice is a cheap and reliable commodity. However, today rice may become scarce in Japan, as radiation continues to be a threat, and the Fukushima prefecture accounts for 4.5% of Japan’s total rice crop.
 
Store rice, beans, honey, water and other staples when you can. Keep them in a safe place, and store them for longevity, according to the basics outlined here in my How to Correctly Store Your Food blog. This simple and inexpensive act can save your life when the seemingly reliable grocery store shelves are empty, and food that is on the shelves may be poisoned. If you haven’t already started your store of survival food, start it today.

What Foods To Store, Food Storage Part II

You already know that I am a huge advocate of growing my own food and living a self-sufficient lifestyle. But there are some things that I simply cannot grow myself, and have purchased in chain stores to add to my survival food supply. Here are 4 staples that I have stored, and that you should store too.

What Food to Store

*Honey- Honey has an indefinite shelf life, meaning that although it may harden a bit, it will never spoil. Honey is an invaluable survival resource because even though we may just use it as a sweetener, it is extremely beneficial to our health. Local honey can be used to fight seasonal allergies. It is filled with beneficial microbes and possesses antibacterial properties, which make it good for a variety of topical uses such as treating burns, cuts, abrasions, and bacterial infections such as pink eye. Overall, it is a superfood that is delicious and dense with beneficial properties. Generally speaking, I use food grade plastic buckets to store food, as I discussed in Food Storage Part I. Because of honey’s consistency, it also does well in glass jars. Aim to store about 10 pounds of honey per person in your family. One important note to remember is that honey should not be given to children under the age of 1 year.

*Salt-  Yes, salt is a popular seasoning. But more importantly to your survival food supply, it may also be used to dry and preserve a variety of meats and other animal products. Lest we forget, salt is also a mineral that is essential to human health. With a lack of salt in the diet, you may experience iodine deficiency, which leads to symptoms of muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. Some salt may be naturally found in beets, carrots, seafood, and poultry. But with a lack of these elements in your diet, as well as a lack of processed foods, you may need to supplement your diet with salt for survival. Aim to store about 20 pounds of salt per person in your family.

*Wheat- Wheat is essential to the survival diet. If you store it properly (as described in my previous post- in plastic buckets with oxygen packs) it will have a practically indefinite shelf life. It is the grain with the longest shelf life. Wheat may also be easily sprouted in order to provide you with extremely nutritious fresh greens, even in the winter or with a lack of natural sunlight. Some survivalists advocate storing multi-vitamins. I instead advocate sprouting, and eating a small amount of sprouts each day in a survival situation. The sprouts have all the nutrients your body needs, as well as beneficial gastrointestinal healing properties, all in a form that is easy for your body to access and use. Comparatively, most multi vitamins are made from synthetic ingredients you will pretty much just pee out, especially in a situation where you are eating minimal amounts of fat. For wheat, aim to store approximately 400 pounds per person.

*Powdered Milk- Fat free powdered milk has a particularly long shelf life, lasting up to 15 years with little change in its nutritional value. Yes, it does taste a little different from pasteurized grocery store milk, but the taste definitely grows on you. Powdered milk is a valuable resource in that it is a source of many vitamins and nutrients. In fact, if you needed to, you could sustain life for quite some time just by drinking one glass of powdered milk per day. Additionally, powdered milk may be used for cooking and baking. You can find nonfat dry milk, or dry whole milk, either one of which I think is fine. Just make sure you look for dry milk that has been fortified with vitamins A and D, as these are beneficial nutrients. Also make sure that the milk does not contain any artificial colors or flavors. Aim to store 60-75 pounds of powdered milk per person in your family.

Once you have these 4 basics, you can rest easy knowing that you have the essentials. It is a good idea to add other dry good as you are able to, and as you can afford them. Two other basics that I would highly recommend adding are white rice (brown is more nutritious, but white stores better) and dry beans. There are many different varieties of dry beans from which to choose, and a major bonus is that they are quite cheap. For information on the multiple health benefits of beans, check out my blog Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit.

How to Correctly Store Your Food, Food Storage Part I

If you have planted your survival seed bank and begun harvesting your own food, then you are well on your way to self-sufficiency and long-term survival. But obviously, your garden is not going to produce at all times of the year. And when disaster strikes, the garden itself may be destroyed. So if you are not putting food in storage correctly, then you are missing a huge element of emergency planning and survival.

Before I begin to give you the basics, please allow me to say that today I will cover just that: the bare minimum basics. In order for you to learn the right way to store your food, you should definitely consider ordering the DVD set Food Storage Secrets. These 2 DVDs contain everything that you need to know in terms of survival food storage. The information contained in these DVDs will allow you to not only store food to keep your family alive in a crisis situation, but it will allow you to store food that tastes good. Really good. When you can vegetables, fruits, and meats using the methods described in these DVDs, they will taste even better than store-bought products. So these DVDs are a really valuable guide. Again, I would encourage you to order Food Storage Secrets today.

Now, on to the basics.

How to Store Food

*Plastic buckets- Generally speaking, I use food grade plastic buckets to store all my dry goods. There is some controversy over whether plastic can be used to store food long-term. Before purchasing a supply of buckets, contact the manufacturer to ensure that they are intended for food storage and not chemicals or solvents. Restaurants use plastic buckets for food storage all the time, so if you’d like you can even contact a local restaurant to see if you can get some used ones for cheap or free. When filling a plastic bucket with dry goods, such as wheat, rice, or beans, stop periodically and gently shake the bucket to get the contents to settle. Fill it all the way up to within 1/2 inch of the top of the bucket. This will reduce the amount of air that stays in the bucket, and reduce your chances of spoilage.

*Oxygen absorbers- Before you start storing food, you should definitely order some oxygen absorbers. You can get 500 of them for just about 15 bucks. I place 3 or 4 of these in each 5-gallon plastic bucket that I use for dry goods. These are extremely useful, since foods that are stored without oxygen last much longer. The trick in to place the oxygen absorbers in the bucket on top of the food, then quickly nail on the lid with a rubber mallet to create a tight, leak-free seal and a partial vacuum. This leaves the food in an atmosphere of 99% pure nitrogen. A tip to getting your oxygen absorbers to last a long time before using them is to store them appropriately. Remember that once you open the package, they will start to absorb oxygen around them right away. Keep your unused oxygen absorbers in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

*Glass jars- For fruits and vegetables, you really can’t beat old fashioned canning in glass jars. Glass jars are cheap to buy, and easy to use and sterilize. You can refer to my blog A Good Reason To Can Your Own Vegetables  for links to sites that will guide you through your first canning experience. Once you have done it a few times, you will have committed the process to memory. You may find instructions online for refrigerator pickles, such as in my Lacto-Fermentation blog. It is important to note that these methods are for quick consumption, not long-term storage. Fruits and vegetables that you will to store for long periods of time must be canned using a heat process, or dried and vacuum packed.

A Good Reason to Can Your Own Vegetables

Consuming vegetables today is certainly not as simple as it should be, or it once was. By selecting conventionally produced canned, frozen, or fresh vegetables, you must wonder: Do these contain pesticides? Were they imported? Were they grown using GMO seeds? Now, unfortunately there is a new concern to add to the list: Do these vegetables contain BPA?

Recently, the website change.org reported that Del Monte canned foods were found to contain BPA, or Bisphenol-A, a dangerous hormone-disrupting chemical. This chemical has been linked to a number of ailments- everything from heart disease, to obesity, and even to cancer. Scientists have also found that BPA causes the early onset of puberty. BPA is toxic enough that some countries, such as Japan, have banned it entirely. Yet in America it may still be found in a number of products; specifically in hard, shiny plastics such as the interior coating of aluminum cans, toddler sippy cups, dental sealants, and baby bottles.

The important information here in this case is that the toxin is not coming from the vegetables themselves, as in the case of chemical pesticides. The toxin is leaching from the packaging into the canned food. Unfortunately, this means that it is fairly likely that BPAs have leeched into other conventionally packaged products you have bought, too. In fact, a recent study at the University of Texas School of Public Health found that of 105 conventional food items purchased at a Dallas grocery store, 63 of them contained “quantifiable levels” of BPA. That is more than half of the products they tested. BPAs were found in many different items, including canned tuna and canned pet food. But the highest levels of BPAs were found in Del Monte’s fresh cut green beans.

This does not affect me personally. I have not purchased canned vegetables in many years, because I have more than enough vegetables in my survival garden to can several batches every year. But this information does make me concerned for all those who rely on canned vegetables to feed their families. I would like to highly encourage you to begin canning your own home-grown vegetables. It is the best way to avoid dangerous chemicals like BPAs.

For some very helpful information on how to can your own veggies, check out some of these links:

How to Dry Fruits and Vegetables Without Sulfites

Drying produce from your crisis garden is an excellent way to preserve it. Once fruits and vegetables have been dried, they become small, compact, and easy to store and carry. Plus, within the drying process, pretty much the only thing that is sacrificed is moisture. Most of the nutrients, vitamins, and fiber content of the produce remains. So even though dried fruits may look like leather, they are still quite nutritious.

Despite my love for dried things, you will never, ever see me purchasing them in a grocery store. Why? Well, why would I bother when I have all of this wonderful, fresh produce at home that I can dry myself? Drying your own fruits and vegetables at home is really not that complicated. The very best thing about drying your own garden fresh produce is that you can do it without sulfites.

You see, pretty much any time you see conventionally dried food of any sort at the grocery store, it contains sulfites. Sulfites keep fruits and vegetables looking “fresher” and more colorful once they have been dried, and increase their shelf life. You will notice that an apricot dried with sulfites looks bright orange and relatively round and smooth, whereas an organically dried apricot is brown and looks a bit more wrinkly. The ones dried with sulfites do not taste better, they just tend to look “fresher.”

All wines contain sulfites, as they occur naturally during the fermentation process, but many types of wine also have extra sulfites that have been added as a preservative. Conventional beef jerky always contains sulfites, as do many condiments, and dried food mixes such dried potato slices that come in boxes of instant au gratin potatoes. Oftentimes sulfites are also sprayed on containers of seafood and salad bars at grocery stores in order to keep these things looking fresh, and to prevent black and brown spots from forming. You should see a sign indicating that sulfites have been added “to preserve freshness.” Whereas sulfites used to be commonly used on all types of produce, the FDA banned this practice in 1986. Now, all products with sulfites must contain a warning label stating, “this product contains sulfites.”

Sulfites are supposedly not dangerous to the majority of the population. However, approximately 1 in 100 people have a sulfite sensitivity. A sulfite sensitivity can develop at any time during life. For these individuals, sulfites can cause headaches, diarrhea,  skin rashes, and asthma attacks.  In some cases, the asthma attacks can cause severe breathing problems and be quite dangerous.

Okay, the point of all of this is that it is obviously better to dry your fruits and vegetables without a preservative, if you can. So I’ll stop my yaking and get to how I dry my produce. This is the perfect time of year to start drying, when your garden really starts to produce, and you need to start preserving lest you waste half of it. You can experiment with drying different types of fruits and veggies to see what kinds you like best. Most types of berries dry very well, including strawberries and blueberries. For fruit, I would also recommend drying pears, apples, bananas, and apricots. (You can really dry pretty much any fruit except for citrus fruits and watermelons. The latter is 92% water so you wouldn’t really have anything left.) For vegetables, you can make your own sun-dried tomatoes, and celery, onions, beans, squash, okra, and carrots all dry well.

Drying Fruits and Vegetables:

Step 1- Begin by washing and drying your fruit or vegetable of choice. Thoroughly dry and slice your produce; fruits and veggies that are cut into uniform thin slices dry best. A sharp knife and steady hand is fine for this, but you may also find a mandolin slicer or food processor useful. Make sure to discard any stems and woody or rotten portions.

Step 2 for Fruits- In place of a coat of sulfites, the fruit slices still need something that is going to help preserve them and extend their shelf life. I find what works best is a dip in ascorbic acid. This is much safer, since ascorbic acid simply comes from vitamin C. You can buy it in powdered form at grocery stores and drug stores. To use it, mix one teaspoon of the powder with 2 cups of water. Immerse your fruit slices and let them soak for 3 minutes before removing them and patting them dry with paper towels.

Step 2 for Vegetables- Drying veggies is different from drying fruits because dried fruits obtain a leathery texture, whereas dried veggies become crisp. They contain less acids than fruits, so in a dried state they become brittle instead of chewy. To prepare veggies to be dried, they need to be blanched. This stops the enzyme action that causes loss of color and flavor during storage. To blanch your vegetables, fill a large pot 2/3 full with water, and bring this to a rolling boil. Fill a colander with your veggie slices, and submerge the colander in the boiling water. Delicate veggies such as tomatoes need to only boil for about 1 minute. Give beans 2 minutes, and harder veggies like carrots 3 minutes. (The water will calm down for a moment once you submerge the colander, so start timing when it returns to a boil.) Then, remove the colander, rinse the veggies briefly with cold water, and pat them dry with paper towels. Move immediately onto the next step, as it is best to complete step #3 while the veggies are still warm to the touch.

If you would like, you can buy a conventional food dehydrator at a local kitchen supply store. I have never purchased one of these, since the tend to be bulky and I do not care for kitchen tools that serve only one purpose. So, for drying, I use my oven. That brings us to…

Step 3- Create your own drying trays by placing cake cooling racks (the ones that look like little metal grids) on top of some cookies sheets. These racks will allow for sufficient air flow, which is imperative. Next, set your oven to 140 degrees. This is likely the lowest setting your oven has. During the entire drying process, you will need to keep the door to your oven ajar, so I would not recommend doing this in a house with very small children. Prop you oven door open with a ball of aluminum foil or a wooden kitchen spoon.

Step 4- It will take between 4 and 12 hours for your fruits and vegetables to dry, depending on what you are drying and how thinly it is sliced. Check them after 4 hours. Dried fruit is done when it feels dry and leathery to the touch, but still flexible. Dried vegetables are done when they are brittle, as they they will shatter if you hit them with your hand.

Step 5 for Fruits- After being oven dried, vegetables can simply be cooled and stored in an airtight container. However, fruits must be conditioned. Remove your fruits from the trays and place them in a tight sealing jar. They will need to remain in this jar for the next 10 days. Every day, give the jar a good shake. This will help to distribute the remaining moisture in the fruit, giving it the desired texture. After those 10 days, you can remove your dried fruit from the jar to store or consume it.

What is a Prepper?

 

No, not a “pepper,” as in a delicious veggie that you may be growing in your garden right now. A “prepper.” Have you heard this term before? A prepper is someone who prepares in advance for catastrophic events such as natural disasters, or social chaos as the result of economic collapse. So if have started a crisis garden, (as I have been urging you to for months now) you are a prepper. Little did you know you had this catchy little nickname.

Two decades ago, preppers were thought to be extremists- those who were militia members stockpiling guns and ammo in their basement crawl-spaces. This is no longer the case. Fortunately, the general social attitude towards preparation for crisis has really drastically changed in the last few years. People from all walks of life are embracing survivalism and crisis preparedness. This comes as a tremendous relief to me, as I firmly believe that a self sustaining way of life  is integral to survival. The more people who realize and embrace this, the better.

Being a prepper is not about cutting yourself off from the “real world” and becoming a food-hoarding recluse. (People who perpetuate this stereo-type are unrealistic and foolish.) Being a prepper means that you have the ability to grow and preserve your own food. It also means that you have the ability to use herbs and natural remedies, rather than drugs, to treat illnesses. Preppers take the time to learn and teach important skills such as self defense, hunting, gardening, and how to locate fresh water. Preppers are those who strive towards self sufficiency, energy efficiency, and conservation.

If “prepping” still sounds like something you can’t get on board with, think of it this way: Being a prepper simply means that you believe it is better to be safe than sorry. Prepping allows you to take personal responsibility and control in the face of terrorist threats, war with two different nations, global warming, and natural disasters. Realistically, by growing your own food and medicine, you are taking no harmful risks. All you are doing is increasing your level of preparedness for crisis.

If you are not yet a prepper, I implore you to start today with living this more self sufficient way of life. Not sure where to start? Begin with baby steps, such as purchasing your Survival Seed Bank and Survival Herb Bank. Each month, set a new goal for yourself, such as learning how to can your own peas, or build a fire without matches. Take it one step at a time. You will have an impressive prepper resume before you know it, and have the confidence and security of knowing that you can provide for yourself and your family in the face of crisis. To me, there is no greater peace of mind than this.

Need a little boost to get started? Check out some online resources, of which you will find plenty. Try Pioneer Living or this Surburban Prepper blog. I regularly follow along with news from the Virginia Preppers Network. A quick internet search will allow you to locate a prepper network in your own home state. There is a whole online community that is ready to support you and your efforts.

What To Do About Green Pea Glut

Back in April, I planted 30 Green Arrow Pea seedlings in my crisis garden. So what does that mean is occurring now? I have quite a large crop of peas. One may call it a plethora of peas, perhaps.

I’ve been fortunate this year to have such a successful pea crop. The vines are standing a good 2 feet tall, and the majority of the pods have contained 10-11 small, bright green peas. Green Arrow Peas are pretty well known for producing a large and reliable crop, so I suppose I should have expected such an outstanding outcome when I decided to plant such a great number of seedlings.

Now I would never intentionally plant more of any one crop than my family can consume, freeze, and can, because that would just be wasteful. It is a very bad idea to plant more than you can reasonably harvest because vegetables that are left to rot on the vine will attract insects and mold. But as any experienced gardener knows, sometimes planting a vegetable or fruit just doesn’t turn out exactly as you expect it to. Certain plants are more likely to produce a glut than others. Zucchini, for example, is a plant that tends to bear more fruit than one even knows how to handle. This is because it is a prolific plant, can thrive in many climates, and just one plant can produce quite a few zucchini. Obviously, this is drastically different from planting, say, a carrot, where you know that one seedling will produce just one carrot.

A quick internet search will show you that gardeners have many different ways for dealing with garden glut. Some have become quite creative with recipes, such as this creative one for Chard Tzatziki to use a chard glut. Others get busy making refrigerator pickles to use a cucumber glut. This year, with my green pea glut, I am employing a variety of methods to best use my harvest:

  • Canning- Visit the Pick Your Own website for easy, step-by-step instructions on how to can your peas. You do need to own some basic canning supplies such as jars, lids, a jar grabber, and a funnel in order to do this. If you do not own these supplies already, then definitely go ahead and invest in them now. They are worth much more than the purchase cost, and in the long run you can preserve pretty much anything in your garden by using the canning method.
  • Freezing- It is quite easy to shell, blanch, store, and freeze green peas. You can follow these directions from Home School Helper to do it yourself. Make sure to write the name of the veggie and the date on the plastic storage bag before you put it in the freezer.
  • Mashing- Try mashing peas instead of potatoes. Yes, it looks a little funky because it is bright green. But it is really, really good.
  • Stewing- This recipe for stewed green peas also uses parsley, onions, and cabbage fresh from your garden.
  • Appetizer-ing- Steam or blanch some peas until they are just tender, then mix them together with a scoop of sour cream, some salt and pepper, a few chopped green onions, and some fresh mint from your herb garden. A scoop of this makes a great side dish or appetizer. Throw in a couple slices of crumbled bacon if you wish to fatten it up a bit.
  • Main dish-ing- In American cuisine, green peas are not often the star. However, they are often a main ingredient in Indian and Asian cuisine. Here is a delicious Indian recipe for Green Peas Masala.

If you have never planted peas before, then I would encourage you to try it for your next planting season. Green peas are frost-hardy, and can be planted throughout most of the United States. If you are preparing to enjoy your own wonderful Green Arrow Peas, then hap-pea harvesting!

What the Heck is Lacto-Fermentation?

I’ll give you three guesses.

  1. No, lacto-fermentation is not when your ice cream melts into a milky pool on a hot day.
  2. No, it’s not when the glass of milk you left out for Santa turns curdled.
  3. Nope, lacto-fermentation does not mean there is any chance that you will ever get drunk off of dairy milk.

Give up? Well I’ll tell you. Lacto-fermentation is actually a super healthy form of pickling. Yes, pickling!

If you recall from a couple weeks back, I blogged about the many different vegetables that my wife and I love to pickle. Yellow squash, okra, asparagus, and radishes name just a few. But here is the issue with pickling: Many people hate to do it in the summer, because it involves spending time over a hot stove. I don’t blame you. Traditionally, I have always thought of pickling as a bit of a fall activity as well, when cooler temps mean I don’t mind spending time in the heat of the kitchen.

Now, what if I were to tell you there is a very nutritional method for pickling certain vegetables that does not involve any heat or stove? You can still get crisp, delicious pickled veggies such as green beans, peppers, and cucumbers without using any heat at all. This method of pickling is… lacto-fermentation!

Many people see the word “lacto” and assume that it has to do with “lactose”, or dairy. But it doesn’t. The word “lacto” actually comes from the natural, beneficial bacteria that this method uses called lactobacillus. Remember, not all bacteria is bad, and this type of bacteria is a particularly friendly one. Lactobacillus converts the carbohydrates from the vegetables into lactic acid. And while it’s at it, it actually produces extra nutrients such as thiamin, fatty acids, B vitamins, biotin, and niacin. Yes, lacto-fermentation can actually help make your veggies even more nutritious. The presence of lactobacilli also increases digestibility of vegetables, and encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestines.

Is lacto-fermentation safe? Yes, I can assure you it surely is. In fact, people have been using this method in many cultures for hundreds of years because it is safe, tasty, and cheap too, since it doesn’t require many ingredients or supplies. It’s likely that your ancestor used lacto-fermentaion.

Ready to try it out for yourself? Excellent! I like to use my White Wonder Cucumbers from my Survival Seed Bank for this recipe. They are ideal for pickling. If you’d like, you can use a variety of cucumber that is actually labeled as a “pickling cucumber” such as the Bush Pickle Cucumber, or the Homemade Pickle Cucumber. These grow to be about 3 inches and 5 inches, respectively, so they’re smaller than your average cucumber. Regardless of the type you use, make sure you select cucumbers that are firm and not overripe. When you cut it open, you should not have fully developed seeds. White Wonder cucumbers can grow to be up to 9 inches in length and have a gorgeous ivory-white color. However, when I pickle them, I prefer to pick them at 6-7 inches. Here is my tried-and-true lacto-fermentation cucumber pickle recipe.

 Pickled Cucumbers

4-5 pickling cucumbers (3-5”), or 2 full sized cucumbers (6-7”)
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey
1 cup filtered water

Wash cucumbers well, and either leave them whole, or cut them into your desired shape. Place all of them in a quart-sized wide mouth jar. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the liquid over the cucumbers, adding more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers. The top of the liquid should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly this tightly with the jar lid, and let it sit at room temperature for 3 days before transferring it to your refrigerator. *Tip- to preserve the crispness of the pickles, add a few grape leaves to the jar before covering it.

Radishes Out the Wazoo

Remember back in early spring when we discussed vegetables that can be planted in March? Well, the first one that I had listed was radishes. I often refer to these as the gardener’s “instant gratification” because they are ready to harvest quite quickly. This year, mine went  from seed to ready-to-pick in just about a month. And I planted a very large crop of them. The result? Radishes out the wazoo.

You may be wondering, what can you do with that many radishes? They do not seem to be an ingredient that is frequently used in recipes or cooked dishes. But it does get old after a while to eat them all plain or just on top of a garden salad. And most of us simply don’t possess the creative talent to construct an Aztec God out of radishes…

Well, my lovely wife has come up with a whole array of ways to use radishes, and the terrific thing is that they’re all quite easy, (though perhaps not as visually stunning as the Aztec God). Try grating a handful of radishes and carrots, then mixing them with a dab of dijon mustard and mayonnaise. It makes an excellent sandwich condiment. Or, for a quick appetizer or snack, slice off the top and bottom of your radishes so that they are level on a plate, then use a small knife to make a little hole in the top center. You don’t need to core the whole thing, just a little hole will do. Now, fill this hole with a dollop of room temperature butter or cream cheese. Give it a sprinkling of salt, and maybe a few fresh herbs if you wish, and that’s it. You’ll want to eat these right away, because if you put them in the fridge, the butter hardens back up, and the texture is just not as delicious. My kids used to eat these butter radishes by the pound. No kidding- I actually got my kids to eat a vegetable by the pound.

With all the great uses for radishes, my favorite is pickling them. Now my wife and I pickle quite a few different vegetables, including green beans, cauliflower, beets, and many others. Her favorites are pickled okra and asparagus, and my favorites are pickled yellow squash and radishes. Yes, much, much more than just cucumbers can be pickled. Plus, pickling is an excellent way to keep the fresh vegetables from your garden, whether you want to give them as gifts, or store them in preparation for crisis.

The process of pickling radishes can be done many different ways. But the recipe that we use is pretty easy, and allows you to eat them just a day later. (Again, radishes are great for instant gratification. This is quite unlike our cucumber pickles, which take a good 6-8 weeks to cure.) This particular recipe also cuts down a bit on the hot, peppery flavor of the radishes, while still preserving their crisp, crunchy texture.

To pickle your radishes, you’ll need to first gather the ingredients for a brine:

  • 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of white table sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon of celery seed
  • 1 dried bay leaf. 

Combine all of these ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Stir it until all of the sugar has dissolved into the liquid. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the brine from the heat and set it aside on the stove.

Next, wash and trim your radishes. Then, slice them thinly with either a mandolin or a knife. Place all your radish slices in a glass heat-proof bowl.

At this time, your brine should have had 5-10 minutes to cool. That’s perfect. You’re ready to go ahead and pour it over your radish slices. Leave this on your counter and let it cool for about 20 minutes. Then, tightly cover it and place it in your fridge.

That’s it- easy! These pickled radishes will be ready to eat in 24 hours, and will keep in a covered bowl in your fridge for about 5 or 6 days. If you want to pickle large quantities, you’ll probably want to go ahead and can them. You can use the exact same recipe above, and just go through the same canning process as you would any other pickled vegetable. If you need instructions on how to can properly, including selecting the right jars and sterilizing them, you can click here.

Also, the brine recipe above is good for just one bowl, or about 12-16 pickled radishes, depending on their size. I plant French Breakfast Radishes each year, which came with my Survival Seed Bank. They grow in a sort of oblong shape, and should be picked while they’re still fairly small. French Breakfast Radishes are pictured below. If you plan to use a round variety, such as Beauty Heart or Cherry Belle, these get quite a bit larger. And of course Crimson Giant is the largest, hence the name.

One additional thing worth noting: When you make your pickled radishes, keep the windows open. It’s a very stinky process! I can assure you, though, it is one that is well worth it.