Victory Garden, Victory Kitchen
Chocolate Box Cottage, Volume 2
Week 36: September 10, 2022
In the 1940’s the US government promoted home vegetable gardening as a means to increase production and consumption of fresh veggies and fruits at home and at school to improve health, raise morale, relieve wartime stress, save money, and for community beautification. Lofty goals, attainable with gardening.
Learning and employing good storage and preservation of surplus fruits and veggies was encouraged. These skills ensure year round availability of quality nutrition, save money, and ensure the health and and strength of individuals, families, communities, and the nation. This part is what takes place in the kitchen, the Victory Kitchen.
The kitchen can be a center of production instead of just consumption. Have you ever thought about this?
Turning leftover meat into tacos
Simmering bones and veggie scraps into broth or soup
Soaking beans to cook into chili
Fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut
Drying herbs to refill your spice jars
Crafting tea blends from herbs grown in a flowerbed (see fleabane tea below)
Creating herbal remedies
Turning backyard fruit into fruit leather
Keeping and baking with a sourdough starter
Composting or keeping a worm bin
Canning tomatoes from your garden or the growers market
Culturing buttermilk for baking and cheesemaking
Giving gifts from your kitchen
You can grow salad greens simply and productively in cereal bowls with a sunny window.
Dried tomatoes store at least a year in a cool pantry. These will be tossed in soups and casseroles and whizzed in the blender with boiling water for pizza sauce. I recommend the Excalibur 9-tray dehydrator. Mine is 20+ years old and going strong.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde made with garden veggies, charred, simmered, and jarred in half pints. After processing in a steam canner, they are shelf stable, delicious, and highly gift-able.
Fleabane, a common weed in the aster family with flowers that somewhat resemble chamomile, makes a lovely floral tea for free. It is important to correctly identify any wild plants used for tea, food, or medicine. I love my Chantal tea kettle with 2-tone train whistle!
Two gallon jars of made-from-scratch vinegar: Scented Geranium and Mint. These were made with trimmings from my plants that needed cutting back. The Scented Geranium vinegar in process retains the scent of the rose and citrus-scented plants so far. And the mint vinegar smells clean and bracing. I anticipate using them both as ingredients in homemade cleaning products.
A glycerite is an herb tincture made with vegetable glycerin instead of alcohol. In the case of a tincture that I need to take long-term, I find it easier to take a glycerite since it tastes sweet. The herb, St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum, grows wild and abundantly on our property and locally. I am so thankful for this plant that helps restore my mood equilibrium during the dark months of winter. I no longer buy commercial capsules of St. John’s wort, instead I make and take my homemade remedy.
Packets of homegrown saved seeds and seeds on a plate from a “new” heirloom variety of tomatillo I grew this year that was a real winner. Amarylla tomatillos from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. are a Polish variety with a very sweet, fruity flavor. Good out of hand as a snack and in salsas.
Instead of buying orange peel spice in a jar, zest your oranges before you peel them with a microplane zester. Air dry the bits of peel on a plate and add it to your spice jar for free.
Watch thrift shops for deals on glass containers and cannisters. These are over-priced. A new-to-me flannel, sadly over-priced at Goodwill, but still in good shape and costs less than new.
Gift from the victory kitchen: ingredients for a stir fry lunch at Mom’s. (And a big thank you to my friend Lifan Irwin for the handmade utensil!)
1. Saving seeds = saving money. These black seeds shaped like tiny lemons are from a special flower: Cameo Joy Four o’clocks.
2. Found in my pocket at the end of the day: flower seeds and…an egg. How it survived, I do not know!
A trio of cookbooks to learn basic cooking skills and other kitchen magic.
The Pioneer Lady’s Country Kitchen by Jane Watson Hopping is my very favorite cookbook. The late author was a true modern day pioneer. Her book sings with the romance of cooking and country life. It is out of print, but you can find it at my favorite online used bookseller. (Once you arrive at the site, type the name of the cookbook into the search bar. If it is not available, simply create a wish list and add this title to it. The company will email you when it is in stock.)
The Joy of Gardening Cookbook by Janet Ballantyne is an excellent primer on cooking from the garden, including tips on how to use an abundance or take advantage of less-than-perfect product. It is also out of print, so I invite you to check my favorite online used bookseller.
Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen was an instant classic. It is a large tome with plenty of illustrations and a comprehensive education in from-scratch cooking skills.
Seemingly small tasks like these (and so many more) add up to a productive kitchen. One that takes food resources and multiplies them. It’s work, but it’s also magic.
Start small. Learn one new skill. Get comfortable with it and add another skill. Then another. Before you know it, you too will have a victory kitchen! I welcome any comments or questions about the concept of victory kitchens.
*Goals for WW2 era Victory Gardens per the USDA are listed here:
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