Tips for Extending Your Harvest Beyond The Growing Season
Come August, backyard gardeners (like us) are awash in produce that we cannot possibly consume or give to friends & family. We have had neighbors say, "Please, no more tomatoes!" It sure would be nice to have some of these veggies and herbs available to us during the winter season when the grocery stores are only offering shriveled produce from lands unknown. Here are some tips to make this happen.
Wash green beans and cut to the length that you like for your recipes. Blanch in salted boiling water for one minute. Drain and cool. Freeze in container or freezer bag. Removing as much of the air from the container minimizes the ice formation -a vacuum sealer is wonderful for this (i.e., Food Saver). When you are ready to use, defrost the beans and saute or boil to doneness.
Using your favorite recipe, prepare slices of breaded eggplant (e.g., for eggplant parmesian). To avoid a tough skin experience, peel your eggplant before breading. Put these cooked breaded slices in a freezer bag. When you are ready to use, defrost the slices, layer with tomato sauce and cheese - your guests won't notice that half of the work was completed months before the actual dish was prepared.
Freezing zucchini is problematic because of its high water content. We usually prepare baked goods using zucchini (breads and muffins) and then freeze them. They freeze well and are a welcome treat with your favorite hot beverage in cold weather.
You can freeze stuffed peppers or sauteed peppers. Try making a pepper jam.
Just wash the hot peppers, remove the top, roughly cut, and put in a food processor. Don't process for too long, because you do not want it to liquify. You can wrap a couple of tablespoons in plastic wrap. Put these little bundles in a freezer bag and your hot peppers will be ready for your favorite soup, stew, sauce, etc.
Greens - Swiss Chard, Kale, Spinach
We love greens! Clean and chop. Blanch in boiling salted water for one minute. Drain in a colander. When cool, put recipe-friendly quantities in plastic containers and freeze.
The Italian response to an abundant tomato crop is to make sauce. Use your favorite recipe and freeze in plastic containers.
Herbs: Basil, Parsley, cilantro & more
We love this tip. Wash, dry, and destem (if necessary) your herbs. Prepare in a food processor with a minimum amount of olive oil. If you have some spare ice cube trays, fill them with your prepared herbs and freeze. When you need to use, just pop a cube out of the tray and you have herbs that are way more flavorful than dried. (If you don't have any spare ice cube trays, just wrap a heaping tablespoon in some plastic wrap and put these bundles in a freezer bag.)
Hope these tips give you some ideas about extending your vegetable and herb crops into the winter and beyond!