There's a radio commercial out right now. I don't recall what the product is, but I do recall some of the content of the commercial. The commercial starts out by saying something about what Mainers say about Maine. One of the comments is, "Maine has two seasons: winter and preparing for winter."
There is definitely a nugget of truth to it, although we do very much enjoy "mud season" and "black fly season" also (both are in Spring), and there is no equal to our fall colors, but really, Spring is just "end of winter" and in the fall, we're still "preparing for winter", which is right around the corner.
I think, on some level, most Mainers are probably preppers - whether that's what they call it, or not. Winters are long, and getting ready for winter is just what we do. Our growing season is really short, and those who have a garden are also canners, because our growing season is really short, and we need to get as much out of it as we can. Nearly everyone I know does some food preservation.
Here in southern Maine, where I live, there are farm stands on just about every corner, and most them carry the same sorts of things: pumpkins, apples, corn, potatoes. All the things my family loves to eat.
But those are also some pretty stellar decorations, this time of year, especially.
It got me to thinking about the way we, my family, stocks up, and the fact is that we spend a lot, this time of year, building our winter stores. Since I live in a small house with very limited storage, it's pretty awesome that a lot of the stuff I want to store is also very decorative, and what's also pretty cool, is that, since they are decorative, those food items might be overlooked, on first pass, by someone who is wanting to take my eats.
One of my favorite fall "decorations" is corn.
I like to grow popcorn, because it's pretty, first of all, and I can dry it from the overhang in my dining room. It looks pretty - like a decoration - but it's also food. But since it's not in the kitchen, it won't be the first thing someone sees if they are looking for food.
We've also "hidden" beans (in their husks), peppers, and herbs strung up to dry, but looking like a decoration.
I also love my garlic braids. These are in the kitchen, but they are hanging up instead of being in some sort of storage bin or in a jar or something. So, again, it looks more like I'm going for a "country kitchen" aesthetic with some Pottery Barn decorations than that I am actually storing something we will eat at some point.
Pumpkins are probably my favorite food decoration. We buy a bunch of jack-o-lantern pumpkins every year. While they are a bit stringy for eating we do save the seeds, which I roast. And even if we don't eat them, my chickens do.
I also grow or purchase a bunch of pie pumpkins. These are smaller and denser and are quite lovely as a centerpiece on my table (when we're not using the table as a desk). No one is going to look at the centerpiece on the table as potential meal.
I have a few things in my garden that aren't well known as a food source. One of my favorite "hidden" delicacies is the sunchoke. It grows 12' tall and blooms with this lovely yellow flower in the late fall. The good part is underground. It's a tuber that looks a lot like ginger and can be used much as one uses potatoes.
The best part is that they don't have to be all harvested. We can leave them in the ground and harvest them until the ground freezes. In the Spring, we an harvest them until they start to grow. I leave the dead stalks, all winter, which tells me where they are so that I can dig them in the spring, but also, because the pith in the stalks is food for the birds that over winter here.
Another popular outside decoration is straw bales. Interestingly, if done properly, those straw bales can be used as a cold storage for potatoes, at least in the early part of the season. From this article on ways to store potatoes:
- In a shady spot outdoors, place a tarp over the ground and cover it with an inch of loose straw. Pile on potatoes and cover with more straw, a second tarp, and a 10-inch blanket of leaves or straw.