In the Northeast, August marks the traditional beginning of harvest season.  While season extension has many growers harvesting year-round or close to it, August through September can still claim the heaviest, and most diverse, yields of the year.  With tomatoes weighing down the vine, zucchini overflowing in the fields, and cabbage sizing up in time for kraut-making, we’re now in peak harvest time.  Which means it’s also peak preserving time. At Good Heart Farmstead, our favorite preservations are ferments, roasted tomatoes, salsa, pesto, and pumpkin puree.  When preserving large quantities of food, there are three factors we look for when choosing the perfect vegetable variety:
  • Flavor: if it doesn’t taste good, why preserve it?
  • Size: depending on the crop, this can affect the efficiency of processing. For example: I’d rather shred 10 seven-pound cabbages than 35 two-pounders.
  • Efficiency: how quickly can we harvest, wash, and process
Here are our go-to varieties that keep us eating local all winter long: Murdoc Cabbage is our favorite kraut-maker.  Its huge heads (4-7 lbs) are quick to process, and make delicious, crunchy sauerkraut. Beet kraut and curry kraut. Photo courtesy of Good Heart Farmstead. Beet-kraut is a family and CSA member favorite.  We grow Boro F1 for kraut, and thin up to 4” in order to get larger beets for processing. Leek Kraut is another variation we make.  For this, we love Chinook F1, and its uniform, heavy yields.  Easy to harvest, quick to clean, and efficient to process. Pesto is another crowd pleaser.  Italian Large Leaf Basil is our standard choice for its high-yields and, yes, large leaves, that I find are easier to work with in bulk.  If you’re up for a twist on the classic pesto, try making it with Sweet Thai Basil and Regiment F1 Spinach, for a more pungent flavor; the spinach adds creaminess to dairy-free/nut-free pestos. Roasted tomatoes are my favorite late-summer preservation.  After a simple slow-roast in the oven with olive oil and herbs, tomatoes are ready to be turned into sauce, canned, or put in the freezer.  My favorite varieties for this are a mix of meaty slicers and paste tomatoes: San Marzano, Rose de Berne, and Moskvich.
Tomatoes ready to be roasted. Photo courtesy of Good Heart Farmstead.
San Marzano is also great for salsas, thanks to its meatiness and small seed cavity.  To add heat to your salsa, try Triunfo F1 Jalapeno, whose prolific and large fruits stand out among other jalapenos we’ve grown. Music Garlic is a staple in our kitchen, used in preserving for pesto, tomato sauces and salsas.  The large cloves of Music are much more efficient to process than smaller cloves of softneck varieties. Long Pie Pumpkin holds its place as our favorite pie pumpkin.  Long Pie has a small seed cavity and a lot of sweet meat.   And while it will keep in storage for months, we roast, scoop, and process the fruit for ready-to-use puree, which our CSA members greatly appreciate. Do you have favorite varieties for preserving?  Let us know in the comments below!  Happy growing, preserving, and eating.