Yesterday’s harvesting went pretty good. Despite all the setbacks from woodchucks munching on everything as it sprouted, the garden (and I) persevered! For the past few weeks I have been harvesting and replanting with fall crops. We only have about 60 more days in the growing season, so everything has to be a short season variety.
Last month, snow peas went in where the brussels sprouts were removed, and cucumbers and Italian green beans replaced the kohlrabi. Beets and carrots were planted right after harvesting the leeks. Today I will be planting beets where I pulled the first crop of carrots, and broccoli raab and lettuce to replace the first crop of beets.
What do you do with it all after harvesting a lot of vegetables at once?
Well, if you only have a few tomatoes, eat them! Too many to consume in a few days? You can roast them with garlic and olive oil for a future meal or two. If you have a ton of green ones on the vines and you aren’t harvesting enough ripe ones to can or make your own sauce yet, freeze them! Really, just stem and wash them thoroughly and pop them in the freezer in a big zipper bag as they become ripe. When you have enough, make sauce! You can just squeeze them out of their skins when thawed. If you have the time, you can blanch, peel and core them before freezing. Either way, you can save up for a big pot of sauce or a canning fest! Or even try drying some to add to other dishes.
Probably one of the easiest vegetables to freeze. Simply wash well and cut into whatever size pieces you cook with; like chopped, cubed or thin slices. Dry them off and place on a cookie sheet in the freezer. When they are frozen, immediately put them in containers or bags and return to the freezer. By freezing them that way you can just pour out what you need because they aren’t frozen together. I usually vacuum seal most of the bags for longer term storage, so they don’t get freezer burn.
Onions & Leeks
Same as peppers. The leeks below are after pulling, after trimming and after washing, slicing and vacuum sealing in meal size portions. As apposed to onions which only need to be peeled and cut up, leeks need to be washed. Soil gets between the leaves, so wash first, cut up, and wash again. Most recipes call for using the white and light greens parts. The darker green parts are tougher, or more fibrous, but are totally delicious and edible with longer cooking. I bagged these separately to use in soups and stews. Waste not want not.
Herbs can be chopped, mixed with water or olive oil (my choice) and frozen in ice cube trays. After freezing, bag them up and return to the freezer. Pop one or two into whatever you want “fresh” herbs in! Drying is also a good way to preserve them. I prefer using my dehydrator, but if you have a dry space with good airflow you can hang them in bunches to dry.
Some vegetables require a different preparation.
Most other vegetables also require blanching before either dehydrating or freezing. This stops the action of enzymes, which naturally occur in vegetables, and would otherwise cause color, flavor, texture, and nutrient losses. After washing (or peeling if you must), cut them into uniform sizes; strips, slices or diced. Get a large bowl of ice water ready while bringing a pot of water to a boil. When it boils, add carrots and return to a boil. Now time for 3 minutes and then immediately drop carrots into ice water to stop the cooking. Small baby carrots take 5 minutes to blanch. Below is my 1st harvest of Kaleidoscope carrots and Chioggia beets, colorful sliced carrots ready to blanch, greens removed from beets and blanching in progress. Did you know that carrot tops are also edible? Not my cup of tea, but try it, you might like it!
Beets can be done a couple ways, but prep is the same for both. Cut the leaves off, leaving about 1/2 inch attached to the beet. Wash well to remove soil, or scrub with a soft brush to not damage the skin. Now, either drop them in boiling water and cook until they are easily pierced with a knife, or roast them, covered, with a little water in the pan until tender. Roasting tends to concentrate the sugars and flavor better then boiling. Allow to cool, then slip off the top, root and skin, and trim any spots with a knife if needed. You can now cut them up, eat them, package them to freeze or pickle them.
If you like spinach and other greens you will probably like beet greens! (The young tender leaves can go in salads or even smoothies.) Wash the leaves and stems thoroughly, cut stems into 2 inch lengths and cut or tear up the leaves. Blanch for two minutes, then into ice water to chill. drain thoroughly and package for the freezer or enjoy them for dinner! Saute the blanched greens for a few minutes in olive oil, garlic and s&p as desired. Oh, yeah, they are so good.
Yes, I said cucamelons. Also called Mexican sour gherkins or mouse melons. Not really a cucumber or a melon, but fun to say and fun to eat! You can see them in the top picture on the kitchen scale. They don’t freeze well, and because of their demure size they get too soft when canned, so I make refrigerator pickles! I made dill ones this week:
- Dissolve 2 tablespoons canning salt in 1 cup of hot water and then add 1 cup of vinegar (white or cider).
- Wash any jar (canning jar, mayonnaise, salad dressing, etc) and lid in hot soapy water and rinse well.
- Add 1 tablespoon dill seed or a large seed head of fresh dill to the jar along with 1 sliced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seed (optional, but good) and a dried chili pepper if you like it spicy.
- Wash the cucamelons, remove any blossom that is still attached, and add them to the jar. Cover with your brine and refrigerate. (They tend to float for a few days, so shake the jar back and forth a couple times each day.)
- These will keep well for a few months, but they won’t last that long. Now the hard part…don’t eat them for at least a week until they season through a bit! (The longer you wait, the better they are.) Don’t have cucamelons? Try this recipe with fresh green beans, little carrots, cucumbers or onions!
And then there are the occasional alien vegetables that you can’t bring yourself to cut up…
Please like, comment and share with your veggie loving and gardener friends!
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