Making the Most of the Harvest

The summer is on its way out in most parts of the country. With the kids back in school, it’s like a signal to the brain to start gathering food for the winter!

If you live in a part of the world where fresh local veggies are a summer luxury, you want to take advantage of Mother Earth’s bounty at this time of year. Even if you live in a climate that’s warm and sunny year round, you want to stock pile items when they’re in season – at the peak of their freshness – so you can enjoy them when they are in shorter supply.

Here are some ways to get the most out of some common veggies that are known for taking over gardens!

Zucchini. These summer squashes are prolific. When you grow zucchini you better like it because those plants are pretty serious producers. Zucchini is an extremely versatile food (we will be featuring it in a post later this week so watch for that!) which can be enjoyed sliced into a stirfry, grated into a meatloaf or shredded and baked into a chocolate cake or a batch of muffins. I like to add zucchini to my stirfrys for as many meals as possible and I cook some into relishes and salsas, but I also grate my zucchini and freeze it in one cup portions to have for baking, soups and pasta sauce.

Tomatoes. Besides the obvious suggestion of canning your tomatoes or making them into salsa, did you know you can also freeze them? Just toss your tomatoes in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. Take them out as you need them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce or chili.

Beans. I like to freeze beans rather than canning them, mostly because that way they keep their nice green color. Wash your beans, snip the ends and cut them into 2-inch pieces or leave them whole. Blanch them by putting them in boiling water for about 3 minutes, and then put them in an ice bath for 3 minutes before placing them in the container you’ll be freezing them in. I use plain old freezer bags.

Spinach. I don’t like to waste a single leaf of this green miracle vegetable! Fresh spinach is fabulous in salads but salad from the garden can be frozen and used in smoothies, sauces and all kinds of other dishes all year long. Simply wash your spinach (a couple of times) to remove dirt and bugs. Spin it as dry as you can and then stuff it into freezer bags to take out as needed. You don’t need to thaw it before using it.

Beets. If you have more beets than you know what to do with but you can’t stand them pickled, did you know you can freeze them? Cook a big batch of beets then put them in an ice bath. When they’re nice and cold, peel off the skins and slice them. Put them in freezer bags and away you go!

Peppers. Warning! Peppers lose their crunchiness after they’ve been frozen and thawed, but they keep their flavor. Frozen peppers are best suited for cooked dishes where the crunch isn’t important. To freeze peppers, simply slice them how you like and freeze in bags!

Do you have any food preservation tips for us to make the most of other seasonal foods?

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