Drying season

I’ve finally finished putting the roof on our prep shed, which I started building this spring and got as far as a frame and half a roof before having no more time to work. Still, this much progress let us wash & pack produce all year long under cover. Now that fall is here, and the edamame harvest is over, I’ve been able to sneak more time on the project, and it’s sorely needed.

This is the season when we start bringing in lots of products that need drying, like dent corn, soup beans, and sorghum heads. Especially in a cool, moist year like this one, we often need to harvest these items a little early to ensure they don’t rot/sprout in the field. Hanging them under cover in an airy place (like the prep shed) keeps the quality up and makes our lives easier.

Above, you see thick bundles of soup bean plants hanging under the newly-completed north roof. In a normal Missouri summer (hot and dry), these beans would finish maturing and drying on the plant, but it’s been too cool and wet, so we pulled the plants a bit early. Otherwise we’d be getting a lot more unwanted situations like this:

We’ve begun harvesting sorghum stalks as well. These super-tall relatives of corn produce a beautiful long seed-head that was traditionally used for making brooms, though the seeds are edible by people and animals alike. We grow them for sale as fall decorations, and already have an order from a local garden center who will bundle them with cornstalks. Below, you see bundles of sorghum hanging from the shed rafters, where they’ll dry nice and straight.

Then there’s our corn, which we’re bringing in as each variety matures and begins to dry. We want to avoid last year’s trouble with kernels sprouting in the ear (though it’s not quite as wet this year) so many of these, too, are finishing their drying out of the field. Below is just a sampling of our colorful varieties, which give fantastic flavor & color to cornbread and fried foods. We’ve received permission from the Health Department to set up a grinder at market and make fresh cornmeal for customers, so we’ll probably start doing that later in the fall when other products are less available and the culinary mindset really turns to things like corn and beans. Right now I’m thinking October.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have the shed and house full of basic foodstuffs like corn and beans, all drying and ready to carry us through the winter with good nutrition and flavor. Plus we think customers will like them.

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