Thursday, September 30, 2021

Stocking up ... in Plain Sight: Foods You Can Store as Fall Decorations

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.  

Sunchokes are incredibly hardy plants and also very invasive.  They are native to this part of New England, and while they aren't one of my favorite foods, I keep them in my garden, because in a worst case scenario, it's food that not many people recognize as food.  

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

  1. 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.
One can also store the potatoes in a rodent proof container in a hole in the ground and place the straw bales on top of the container.  The straw will serve as insulation to keep the potatoes from freezing, and also be an easy way to find them, when it snows.  

We just placed a bulk order for potatoes, and I'm definitely going to be using some of those storage suggestions.  We have several bales of straw outside, which we used as seating for a recent gathering of friends.  Shoving the potatoes into the straw will keep them, at least for awhile, and then, any we missed in the spring, will sprout and grow.  More potatoes is not a bad thing.  And in a TEOTWAWKI situation, who's gonna think to look outside in the straw bales for food?

Since storage is a premium and there's just no chance that I'm going to spend money on a storage facility to hold my preps, finding items that can be stored in plain sight is my preference.  Stocking up on fall foods that I can store out in the open as a decoration is a huge bonus.


  1. Great info! I can see in Maine you'd really have to prepare ahead of time for a long periods of time of winter. Great idea of hiding in plain sight! Always good to have some protected food sources from prying eyes

    1. You probably have a good deal of winter where you are, too ;).

  2. Great post! I love the idea of hiding food in plain sight as decorations; very clever!

    1. Thanks, Leigh! I guess when one has very limited space, creativity rules the day ;).

  3. Love doing this. In our current home we have a built-in wood fireplace. Last year's fall decor was sugar pie pumpkins and butternut squash. It was pretty fun to tell the boy to go choose dinner from the mantel. LOL When we were ready to change to our Christmas decorations, we roasted the remainder and put the puree in the freezer. I still have a few bags left. (Hmm, either I bought too many pumpkins or we need to eat more pumpkin pie - and bread - and cookies - and muffins. YUM.)

    1. I think you probably need more pumpkin pie ... although I think everyone probably needs more pumpkin pie ;).

    2. I think you're onto something there. LOL

      This thread has reminded me we have spiralized apples out there too. I'll add apple pie and crisp to the list. Woohoo!

  4. This is great Wendy. What a neat idea. I've been doing a lot of winter prep myself. My garlic is hanging in the shed, but I love the idea of using it as a decoration! ☺

    1. Thanks! I don't have much space, especially for storage. Everything is just out, where it can be seen, and so, it is nice that a lot of the food-stuff I want/need to store is also kind of pretty ;).