Preserving the Harvest

While we all love to eat our veggies fresh from the garden, the overabundance of our crops can and should be reserved for later use. Many herbs and vegetables can be frozen, dried, fermented, canned, or cellar stored so we can enjoy the goodness of our garden year round. Each crop’s qualities are best preserved by different methods. Below is a general guide on recommended preservation methods along with links for more information on particular types of preservation options.

Artichokes

Artichokes can be frozen after steaming or blanching, or they can preserved and marinated in oil. Drying is not recommended for artichoke preservation.

Snap Beans

Snap beans, or green beans as most of us know them, are easily frozen, canned, and/or pickled and canned. Canned Dilly Beans are one of my favorite pickled treats, and are an easy way to preserve snap beans.

Dry Beans

The best way to preserve dry beans is to harvest them after they are fully dry, shell them from their pods and pack them into mason jars. You can also choose to can your dry beans for further convenience later when eating

Beets

Beets are usually canned, pickled, and can also be kept in a root cellar under proper storage conditions for months. Pickling and canning will ensure your winter supply does not go bad. Pickled beets are great in salads, and canned work well in any recipe calling for cooked beets. The greens of the beet can also be blanched and frozen like any other leafy green.

Broccoli

The best preservation method for broccoli is definitely blanching and freezing. Broccoli can be cooked from frozen without loosing much flavor or texture.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts also should be blanched and frozen for best future eating quality.

Cabbage

Depending on the type of cabbage you have you can either ferment it into sauerkraut, or store the heads whole in your root cellar, where the proper storage conditions can make storage varieties last for months into the winter.

Carrots

Carrots can be canned or stored raw in your root cellar. Many people recommend storing carrots in large plastic bins in single layers, surrounded by sand.

Celery & Celeriac

Celery is another vegetable best used fresh. While it can be frozen for later use, it will only be acceptable in cooked dishes as it looses much of its texture when frozen. Celeriac can also be frozen for use in stews, soups, or mashed root dishes, or it can be grated and fermented with other veggies into a type of kraut.

Chard

Chard, like most other leafy greens is best preserved by freezing. Whole leaves and stems can be blanched and frozen, or the chard can be chopped and/or pureed raw and put into ice cube trays for a healthy addition to smoothies.

Collards

While Collards are best preserved through freezing, like chard, kale, and Asian greens, it can also be fermented into an interestingly tasty treat.

Corn

Depending on the type of corn you grow, your preservation options vary. For sweet corn it can be frozen on or off the cob, canned once sliced off the cob, or even made into a wonderful relish. Some people recommend blanching to corn before freezing, others say you don’t need to. I personally have frozen corn on the cob after blanching and found the texture to be mushy. I could have overcooked it or blanched it for too long, but I was not happy with the final product. This year I am experimenting with freezing corn off the cob without blanching. Flint or dry corn should be removed from the cob once dry and stored whole for later grinding, or ground into flour immediately.

Cucumbers

The best preservation method for cucumbers is pickling or fermenting. You can choose to cut up larger cucumbers into spears or coins, or pickle smaller ones whole. You can also chop them up and make sweet pickle relish. Below are a few different recipes for pickles, including a fermented sour pickle recipe.

Eggplant

Eggplant is not something I typically think of preserving, but I recently found out there are multiple ways to enjoy this flavorful vegetable the whole year through. Eggplant can be made into pickles, preserves, or blanched and frozen.

Fennel

My favorite way to preserve fennel is to make a fennel onion relish. The relish is amazing served with a tangy goat cheese on crostini. Fennel can also be sliced and frozen for use in soups and other baked dishes.

 Garlic

Garlic is a great storing vegetable and can be stored in a cool, dry area without any additional methods of preservation. It also tastes amazing pickled! Garlic can also be frozen or dried. The following link has ideas for multiple methods of preservation.

Specialty Greens – Asian Greens, Mustard, etc.

Most greens are best frozen or fermented. Bok Choy is not recommended for freezing as the stems become tough and the greens tend to nearly melt away and become flavorless.

Kale

Kale is a versatile vegetable in that it can be frozen, dried, or fermented. Fermented brassicas like kale and mustard greens will develop a very strong smell that may be off-putting to some. If you can get past the aroma you will have a wonderful earthy, salty treat to mix with rice or vegetable dishes. Kale chips are an amazing treat as well, but only last a few days in an airtight container.

Kohlrabi

While Kohlrabi is best enjoyed fresh, it can be fermented either on its own or with cabbage to make a wonderful kraut.

Lettuce

Lettuce is mostly water; because of this there is currently no real method of preserving lettuce for long term storage.

 Melons

Melons like cantaloupe, honeydew, muskmelons, and canary melons can be cubed and frozen for addition to smoothies or for a refreshing cold melon soup.

Okra

Pickled okra is by far my favorite pickled vegetable. Blanching and freezing is also recommended for this Southern favorite.

 Onions and Leeks

Many onions and leeks are fine stored in a cool, dark, dry place, like a root cellar. They should be stored hanging, if possible, in mesh bags. They can also be dried or frozen for future use in cooked dishes.

Peas

Snap peas make a great pickle and sweet shell peas can be easily frozen for later use in dishes like Chicken Pot Pie or Indian Samosas or canned. The recipe in the link below for pickling sugar snaps includes sugar. I personally prefer them pickled without the sugar.

Peppers

I just love sausage and peppers, as well as peppers roasted with potatoes and garlic. Any color and type of pepper can be easily sliced and frozen. Sweet red peppers can also be roasted and preserved in oil. Hot peppers can also be dried, then powdered and crushed, or left whole.

Potatoes

Most types of potatoes can be stored in a cool, dark, mostly dry space, like your root cellar. Potatoes should not be stored with or near onions. You can also shred or cube potatoes and freeze them, or even can them.

Pumpkins

Many pumpkins have quite a long storage life in a root cellar, or other cool, dark, dry place. To ensure you get to them before they begin to rot, you can bake and puree the flesh and freeze for late winter pumpkin pies, pancakes, breads, and even ice cream.

Radishes

Most types of radishes can be shredded and added to krauts or kim chi (though Diakon Radishes are the traditional radish for kim chi preparation), or even fermented on their own.

Spinach

While spinach can be canned, its flavor is best when frozen. Once frozen it can be thawed for spinach dip, thrown into soups and stews, or blended with cheese and stuffed into manicotti pasta shells. It also makes a great addition to smoothies while still frozen.

Summer Squash and Zucchini

Summer squash and zucchinis can be dried, frozen, or made into a wonderful sweet relish. The included zucchini relish recipes calls for white vinegar, but I personally like to use apple cider vinegar which lends a wonderful sweetness and allows me to cut back on the amount of sugar a bit.

Winter Squash

Winter squash is wonderful when baked or steamed, pureed, and frozen. You could also cube and can your winter squash, or keep them whole in your root cellar. Under proper storage conditions some winter squash will last far into the spring. Winter squashes are a great substitute in recipes calling for pumpkin.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be canned, frozen, or dried. They type of tomato will determine the best preservation method. For example, while cherry tomato varieties can be canned or frozen, their sweet flavor lends itself to dehydrating into sun-dried tomatoes which can then be stored in the freezer. Paste tomatoes can be blanched, and frozen or canned. You can even can your own tomato juice!

Turnips and Rutabagas

Turnips and Rutabagas are also good storage vegetables. They can be boiled mashed and frozen as well.

Watermelon

My favorite way to preserve watermelon is to make jelly. The rinds also make a great sweet pickle, popular in the Southern US.

Herbs

While all herbs can be air dried and/or finished in an oven at the lowest temperature or in a food dehydrator, some lend themselves better to freezing, such as Cilantro and Parsley. Basil and Chives are also examples of two herbs that retain better flavor when frozen as opposed to drying. Herbs can be frozen in oil or melted butter in ice cube trays, or on their own.

This entry was posted in Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Preserving the Harvest

  1. Pingback: Today in the Farm Stand and Preservation Tips: September 27, 2012 | Catamount Aviation & Under Orion Farm

  2. Judy Murphy says:

    Someone suggested wiping winter squash vinegar before putting in root cellar. Is this valid?

  3. Pingback: CSA Week # 18 | Nutrition.Health.Life.

  4. This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me.
    Thanks a lot!

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