Preserving Your Summer Harvest
Summer is the season of bounty. The days are longer so we’ve got more time to spend outside doing things we really enjoy. For many Americans, gardening tops the list favorite outdoor activities for a variety of reasons. Not only is it good for your health, both physically and mentally, but it’s also good for the environment and your wallet. With a fairly simple set-up, you can grow your own vegetables from anywhere, but you may begin to encounter an issue all gardeners face during late summer.
Too many vegetables! You find yourself eating tomato sandwiches for breakfast and lunch every day and munching on cucumbers whenever possible. You’ve given away vegetables to any neighbor that will take more and your counter is still full. So what’s the best way to ensure that your harvest and hard work doesn’t go to waste? It takes a little prep time, but there are a variety of ways that you can prep your veggies for the winter without laboring in the kitchen for hours on end. (Canning, we’re looking at you!)
One of the best ways to enjoy your homegrown fruits and veggies during the winter months involves opening your freezer. Freezing is a great way to preserve produce because it holds and retains the nutrients that you value without sacrificing taste. Try freezing whole batches of berries to put into smoothies for a quick breakfast on the run, or warm pies around the holiday season.
Freezing vegetables in pre-measured packages is a great way to whip up a couple sides for a warm roasted chicken when it’s snowing outside. Be aware that some vegetables, like green beans, broccoli, peas, and squash, need to be blanched before they’re frozen to help lock in the nutritional value. If you really want to wow your family months from now, simultaneously freeze herbs in olive oil for a surefire way to add additional flavor to your frozen veggies!
Speaking of flavoring, making sauces with your veggies is a great way to use them up now and later. Spaghetti and lasagna are always a family favorite when the weather starts to turn and with a simple homemade sauce and pasta on hand, you won’t have to brave the cold to go get a missing dinner ingredient.
Dehydrating fruits and vegetables is another great option for preserving your garden’s byproduct. Try making sun-dried tomatoes to mix in with pasta dishes. Dried fruit is a great snack all its own, but can also serve as a delicious topping for morning oatmeal or cereal. Make homemade apple sauce to accompany your yogurt or serve it alongside oven seared pork chops. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try making fruit vinegar, which is a great dressing for salads, or different fruit jams for your toast.
Canning and pickling are also great options, but it’s truly up to you how to make sure your fruits and veggies don’t go to waste. Consider your palette, eating habits, and get to work! Fall is almost here.