Practical Skills – Self-reliance and food security

As many of my readers know, I’m part of Surrey/White Rock Food Action Coalition, I’m a member of BC Food Systems’ Network and I recently obtained my first PDC (Permaculture Designer Certification). Being surrounded of and talking all day about food security, self-reliance and the need for each community to become self-sufficient in terms of their food supply, I decided to start showing and talking about my own steps towards these goals.

I come from a large Italian/basque family whose descendants established in Argentina. I recall food banquets at my great-grandma’s house where food would appear at the table for what it seemed infinitely: cheeses and fruits, jams, cannelloni, meat, salad, bread and more desserts served with wine and juices…that was not the reality in my own house, but I was occasionally exposed to these feasts.

Both at home and at my aunt and grandma’s house, I learned to make ravioli, gnocchi and spaghetti from real dough (made by us), to preserve tomatoes sauce and make fruit jams and jellies. I learned to make bread and cakes, empanadas and Spanish potato omelette (tortilla)…

For the same reason others may have (rush and busy lives, other “interests” and the affordability and “convenience” of packaged food, I spent many years cooking the basics and sometimes, not cooking at all.

I recovered the love for this skill when I moved to Canada. And this weekend, many factors allowed me to come back to some of those “lost” skills (I’m writing an article on food and newcomers to Canada).

My tomato plants, which have been providing with great cherry and grape tomatoes, and my CSA at SunDogVeggies which also provided some of the biggest tomatoes I’ve seen in BC (as well as some small, yellowish ones), got blight due to the rainy days we had recently. I also had much more tomatoes (and peppers) that I could eat in weeks, so I decided to dehydrate them:


The process is easy and can be done with many vegetables and fruits, but requires energy and time, so I’m seriously thinking on buying a professional dehydrator to do this with seasonal food so I don’t need to buy that much during wintertime.

You just clean and slice the veggies/fruits, put them in panels (in this case, tomatoes and peppers, I also added sea salt) and put them in the oven to the lowest possible temperature for 4-6 hours. Better if it is sunny, you’ll save the gas/electricity from the oven…

I also picked my “green” tomatoes (which won’t have a chance if rain continues) and put them in newspaper, saving them at a cool and dark corner so they can mature.

I also had fun making kale quiche and collecting basil and oregano for drying and making flavouring oils for salads and salsas, collecting seeds from many of my herbs and the pole beans and making salad with the Nasturtium flowers and leaves.

Two funny things I did at my Permaculture course: I shaped a wood spoon from a tree branch (using an axe and a carving chisel:


And I learned how to eat ants! (no, I don’t have a picture of myself eating ants, so trust me: I ate them). They taste (and smell) like vinegar (they know you are catching them after you catch the first two or three and start running away)….:)

The next weekend I have some time I will try to do some jam and canning…

And you mysterious reader, what are you doing to ensure your family’s food security and self-reliance?

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