Summer Kitchens and Garden Preservation

Growing up during the 70 and 80’s on a rural farm (population 234) in Northern Florida near the Georgia border provided me with invaluable experiences of growing, harvesting and preserving food.

My paternal and maternal grandmothers both had large families and providing food was truly a family affair. We would spend long hours during the summer months harvesting corn, okra, cowpeas, potatoes, peppers, plums, pears, melons, muscadine grapes, sugar cane, summer squash, beans, cucumbers and of course, tons of tomatoes.

Most of the preserving was done outside under an ancient live oak tree centered in the middle of the two homesteads and also a small, lean-to kitchen (summer kitchen) semi-attached to the house.  Handmade wooden farm tables and chairs were provided by both families along with canning jars and accessories, cooking utensils, large pots and large wrought iron cauldrons. We all participated in canning, drying and freezing the harvests and would split the caches between the families. During the fall season, we would partake of the same rituals with cool weather veggies such as collard, turnip and mustard greens, cabbage, peas and various root crops. During that time, livestock was also harvested, preserved and shared between families.

Summer kitchens were widely used during the 18th and 19th century for cooking, processing/preserving large amounts of food crops during the hot summer months. They were made from materials such as stones, wood planks and logs. The interiors usually had large cast iron wood burning stoves, fireplaces and ovens. Most were attached to the main house but many were detached. This in turn would keep the remainder of the house cool and safe from smoke scents and accidental wood stove fires.

The preservation kitchen design shown below is based from a prefab building which includes a large retractile door, ventilation units, potting station, canning equipment, energy efficient kitchen appliances, dehydration shelving units and storage cabinets and racks. The plants featured are excellent for eating fresh, pickling, jam making and drying for a family or market sales.

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Herbs
  • Nectarines
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

About The Editors of Garden Variety

The Magazine-style Daily Lifestyle Blog of Gardening, Outdoor Spaces and Natural Living.
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