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Carlsbad resident Reegan Lessie displays food preservation techniques she learned from her grandmother. Photo by Rob Pastor
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Fall gardening tips, tricks

Fall is a bit of a bittersweet time for all of us who have vegetable gardens. Walking through our vegetable patch, it is possible that many of the crops we have toiled over all summer have either been harvested or gone to seed.

But for those of us who wish to preserve the vegetables that we have worked so hard to produce, we might just look back at the wisdom of our elders.

If we are lucky we can remember the techniques that our grandparents may have taught us.

As a teenager growing up in the suburban Midwest, I took little interest in what my German and Dutch grandmothers had learned during the Depression. I was much too interested in boys and my back-to-school wardrobe in September, to think about pickles!

But looking back on those days, and looking through older cookbooks, I can now compile some useful food preservation methods for blossoming gardeners.

Preservation methods from around the world

As I have been researching the origin of food preservation from around the world, I have had the pleasure of finding the book, “Pickled,” in which Ms. Norris not only traces the origin of the pickle  and features examples from around the world.

“The history of the pickle can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it is said that Cleopatra ate pickled food as part of her beauty regime,” Norris writes. “In Asia and parts of Europe, pickles remain an important part of the daily meals.”

Ms. Norris also features international recipes, including some of Indian chef and restauranteur, Tuhin Dutta  of Manhattan. He also learned from his family, but passes on a humorous story about his mother’s food preservation skills:

“In Indian society there are beliefs regarding the quality of cooking and the cook’s hands. When an Indian chef compliments someone else’s cooking in a restaurant, they’ll say, ‘that cook has a good hand.’ It is a major insult to say a cook has a bad hand. Nothing is wrong with the actual hands, but everybody’s system reacts differently to food.

“My mother never made pickles, to be honest, her pickles were not that good. It’s not that my mother is evil, or that she’s a bad cook with other things – but when it comes to pickling, she had a bad hand.”

Reegan Lessie of Carlsbad proudly displays her canned Cowboy Candy, made from jalapeño peppers harvested from her garden. Photo by Rob Pastor

Tips from a good hand at food preservation

Oddly enough, in a crisis such as the recent pandemic, people are beginning to realize that we must begin to think about our food sources and how to survive when all that we want to eat i not readily available.

Reegan Lessie, 40, a yoga teacher from Carlsbad, is one of my most recent foodie finds who shares a wealth of information about canning and preserving.

Her grandmother, Edith Lessie, from Indiana had been growing food and preserving it her entire. When Reegan started to visit their farm when she was six years old. “They canned or pickled et they grew or bought locally.

Eddie pickled everything that grew in her yard or the summer vegetables that came from the local market.

Reegan remembers,” The basement root cellar was full of  clear glass Ball jars with everything from beans to beets, and apples and, yes, even chickens! I ate everything except the chicken.”

Alongside the storage shelves were large, grey ceramic ten- gallon crocks which housed Eddie’s ever-growing batches of pickles and sauerkraut.

“My most exciting purchase recently, was a 10 gallon crock, which looks just like hers,” Reegan confessed gleefully.

Since the fermentation process takes place without refrigeration and in a dark place, Reegan has hers in a small, dark closet.

“You can smell it and taste it when it is ready, over a few weeks,” Reegan said. “You don’t worry about it going bad because there is a strong brine with salt. I do stir it every few days.”

Discover your new favorite food passion

The impact of the wealth of knowledge that her grandmother possessed did not really hit her until the past few years during the pandemic when she had, as many did, more time and less access to fresh food.

“I guess I am a bit of a throwback, not many people here do what I do,” Reegan said. “And my partner Rob loves to eat what I make, but he doesn’t have time to take part in the process.”

Reegan and her partner Rob Pastor own Baba Coffee House on State Street in Carlsbad, which is frequented by locals who enjoy the roasted coffee, tea, healthy drinks and homemade pastry and lunch  menu.

To find a copy of Reegan’s favorite new recipe for Cowboy Candy or Candied Jalapenos, go to www.food.com/recipe/jalapeno. Reegan will also be posting her recipe soon at the Baba Coffee House.

There may be other local gardeners who are interested in food preservation, so visit the San Diego Master Gardeners website to find ongoing resources and classes in San Diego. And check with Coast Roots Farm in Encinitas for upcoming harvest festivals at www.coastalrootsfarm.com.

Fall planting in the garden

One of my favorite sites for shopping for seasonal vegetable plants in Anderson’s La Costa Nursery in Encinitas.

Steven, the site manager, passed on his newsletter tips for creating a fall garden.

“Now is the time to plant cool-season crops such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage, radish, carrot, onion and swiss chard,” Steven said.

Stop by the nursery for a full tour of the fall vegetables and soil preparation tips to start your fall garden.

We hope you have a wonderful fall season of planting in your garden and preserving nature’s bounty.

Jano Nightingale is a master gardener and horticulturist who teaches classes at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Contact her at [email protected].

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