This is the second year our small town has had a Fill Your Pantry event at the local grange hall (I guess I should say “one of,” as there are several), but this is the first year I’ve gotten to go.
Because I got sick last year. I was terribly upset that I had to miss it as it was something I had been really looking forward to. I really don’t like crowds, but I like the idea of it all: Gathering local farmers in one place to sell the last of their produce and products with the idea that people can come and “fill their pantry” for the winter with bulk purchases. It’s an idea that spread all over Oregon.
My pantry is already pretty full, and I live next to a farm stand that stays open for self-serve into February, so my goal wasn’t really to fill my pantry as much as just see what one of these ordeals is like.
Oh, and bonus: My friend Beth (hi, Beth!) of the pampered chicken texted just as I was leaving the house, so I picked her up and we went together. It’s much easier facing a crowd with a friend.
I purposely waited until a couple hours in, thinking that maybe the rush to be first would be over and it wouldn’t be as busy, but wow, was I wrong — the place was packed. We did a recognizance tour around the place to see what was being offered, then made a few purchases.
You could truly fill your pantry if you wanted to. There was the usual winter squash offerings we see this time of year, but also carrots, cabbage, potatoes, onions, dried mushrooms, dried herbs, grains, honey, tinctures, meat (all in plastic, but I wasn’t looking for that anyway), kombocha (am I the only one who doesn’t get this trend?), tea, corn, garlic, cheese (also all in plastic), sauerkraut, apples and pears … pretty impressive, really.
One thing that struck us as kind of weird, though, is the lack of true bulk options — like, boxes of produce for purchase instead of loose items to place into the proffered plastic produce bag, like you would see during a trip to the grocery store. The only thing that was really in bulk that I could see was meat — they had some deals listed — honey (five pound bucket, anyone?), and one vendor had 10 pound paper sacks of potatoes and onions. But for the most part, you’d have to be prepared in order to make that work, with your own boxes or bags or whatever. Beth even asked one vendor if he had boxes of potatoes she could buy, and that seemed to confuse him.
Although boxes aren’t free. Maybe that’s just too big of an expense for a small farmer? Noted for next year.
For my part, I bought some herbs — coriander, oregano, spearmint (!), and basil — one of my produce bags of red potatoes, another of onions, and 12 ears of corn (on sale for $3.50. Um, that seemed like a bargain). Oh, and some tea. I know, I know, but I’m buddies with the tea guy now (let’s just say I added a sidebar to my coffee story in the gift guide. See? I AM unbiased!) and he had these huge jars of teas and he kept having me smell them, and they smelled delicious, and then as I was trying to decide if I wanted to get some kind of cold remedy tea, he showed me a chocolate/peppermint concoction and you guys, I’m not that strong — it was HEAVENLY. We joked that I can now actually use my tea strainer. (Eh, I can bring this to work and take a tea break in the afternoons. I need warm liquids to help me think. Perhaps 64 ounces of coffee a day isn’t the best idea. Although yeah, it kind of is. 😉 )
So that was fun. My wallet was $40 lighter, but I felt like I’d gotten some good stuff (I didn’t know they grew coriander here!), plus I really like supporting our local farms. We eat very well because of these people.
Once I got home, I immediately decanted the herbs (in plastic ziplock bags, I’m sorry, Earth) into jars as recommended by the herb lady, and then the next day dealt with the rest of my stash: I chopped the onions in the food processor, packed them into jars I’ve inherited from my grandma and froze, and cut the raw corn straight off the cob and did the same. I put the potatoes in the refrigerator, and I know, you don’t actually need to refrigerate potatoes, but I have room in one of my bins and I do not have anywhere else to store them. The spearmint got covered in vodka — mint extract! That’s pretty exciting.
Oh, bonus story: The herb lady was trying to talk me into buying nettles. She had lived in Siberia and they gathered nettles and dried them by the bushel and ate them all winter because they’re full of vitamin C or whatever. I was like, um, when I think of nettles, I think of stinging nettles and she was like, yeah, that’s what they are! They lose their sting when you dry or cook them. And I was like, that is alarming. So that was not a purchase I made.
Anyway, I had big plans on Sunday of getting apples for another batch of apple butter (Abby keeps giving away jars to everyone who writes her letters of recommendation) … but didn’t end up getting to my favorite farm stand. Maybe this weekend.
Next up: I have a treat for you! I’d tell you what it is but I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Let’s just say this is timely for the upcoming holiday season, covers new zero waste ground, and has nothing to do with me.