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 can be frozen after steaming or blanching, or they can preserved and marinated in oil. Drying is not recommended for artichoke preservation.
- Freezing Artichokes - http://www.preservingyourharvest.com/Artichokes.html
- Canning Artichokes - http://localfoods.about.com/od/spring/r/MarinatedArts.htm
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.
- Freezing Snap Beans - http://www.recipesecrets.net/forums/cooking-tips/9189-directions-freezing-green-beans.html
- Pickling Dilly Beans - http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/dilled_beans.html
- Canning Snap Beans - http://www.simplycanning.com/canning-green-beans.html
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
- Canning Dry Beans - http://hickeryhollerfarm.blogspot.com/2012/01/canning-dried-beans.html
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.
- Canning Beets - http://pickyourown.org/beets_canning.htm
- Pickling Beets - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pickled-beets/
The best preservation method for broccoli is definitely blanching and freezing. Broccoli can be cooked from frozen without loosing much flavor or texture.
- Freezing Broccoli - http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/broccoli.html
Brussels Sprouts also should be blanched and frozen for best future eating quality.
- Freezing Brussels Sprouts - http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/brusselssprouts.cfm
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.
- Fermenting Sauerkraut - http://www.wildfermentation.com/making-sauerkraut-2/
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.
- Canning Carrots - http://www.simplycanning.com/canning-carrots.html
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.
- Freezing Celery - http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/celery.html
- Freezing Celeriac - http://www.angelfire.com/mo3/abcdefg200/survlib/pfs/01600692.htm
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.
While Collards are best preserved through freezing, like chard, kale, and Asian greens, it can also be fermented into an interestingly tasty treat.
- Freezing Collards - http://pickyourown.org/freezing_greens.htm
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.
- Freezing Sweet Corn on the Cob - http://www.food.com/recipe/kittencals-method-for-freezing-corn-on-the-cob-315512
- Freezing Sweet Corn off the Cob - http://www.pickyourown.org/freezingcorn.htm
- Canning Sweet Corn - http://www.simplycanning.com/canning-corn.html
- Sweet Corn Relish - http://preservedandpickled.blogspot.com/2011/08/sweet-corn-relish.html
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.
- Canning Dill Pickles - http://www.grit.com/food/recipes/pickle-canning-recipes.aspx
- Canning Sweet Pickles - http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/emerils-homemade-sweet-and-spicy-pickles-recipe/index.html
- Fermenting Sour Pickles - http://www.wildfermentation.com/making-sour-pickles-2/
- Sweet Pickle Relish - http://canningandpreserving.net/pickle-relish-best-sweet-pickle-relish-ever/html
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.
- Pickling Eggplant - http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/11/pickled-eggplant-with-mint-and-garlic.html
- Canning Eggplant Preserves - http://www.culinate.com/books/collections/all_books/The+Joy+of+Jams*2C+Jellies*2C+and+Other+Sweet+Preserves/eggplant_preserves
- Freezing Eggplant - http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/eggplant.cfm
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.
- Freezing Fennel - http://www.gardenvegetable.net/harvest_ideas/freeze_vegetables/how_to_freeze_fennel.html
- Canning Fennel Onion Relish - http://www.sbcanning.com/2011/03/vidalia-onion-fennel-two-roots-that-go.html
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.
- Pickling/Freezing/Drying Garlic - http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/pickle.htm
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.
- Freezing Mustard Greens - http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/mustard.cfm
- Fermenting Mustard Greens - http://suddenlysauer.com/2010/03/22/the-pickling-of-the-mustard-green/
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.
- Freezing Kale - http://www.notmartha.org/archives/2009/06/12/how-to-blanch-and-freeze-kale/
- Fermenting Kale - http://thegazette.com/2012/01/23/conquering-kale/
- Kale Chips - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/baked-kale-chips/
While Kohlrabi is best enjoyed fresh, it can be fermented either on its own or with cabbage to make a wonderful kraut.
- Fermenting Kohlrabi Kraut - http://christensenka.squarespace.com/imported-20100106014405/2010/7/21/its-alive-cultured-kohlrabi-sauerkraut-and-a-few-tips-and-tr.html
- Fermenting Kohlrabi Pickles - http://christensenka.squarespace.com/imported-20100106014405/2009/6/27/cultured-vegetables-pickled-kohlrabi-spears-with-dill-and-ca.html
Lettuce is mostly water; because of this there is currently no real method of preserving lettuce for long term storage.
Melons like cantaloupe, honeydew, muskmelons, and canary melons can be cubed and frozen for addition to smoothies or for a refreshing cold melon soup.
- Freezing Melons - http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8095.pdf
Pickled okra is by far my favorite pickled vegetable. Blanching and freezing is also recommended for this Southern favorite.
- Pickling Okra - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/grandma-omas-pickled-okra/
- Freezing Okra - http://www.lsuagcenter.com/NR/rdonlyres/0B3CFF1B-67D1-41B7-B082-7A28CB61D217/64409/pub1896FreezingOkraHIGHRES.pdf
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.
- Freezing Onions and Leeks - http://www.ehow.com/how_7764049_freeze-onions-leeks.html
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.
- Pickling Snap Peas - http://www.blazinghotwok.com/2011/07/pickled-sugar-snap-peas.html
- Freezing Shell Peas - http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf/Food_Tips_and_Info/Freezing/Vegetables/Freezing-Peas.html
- Canning Shell Peas - http://extension.oregonstate.edu/josephine/sites/default/files/sp_50_305_preserving_peas_and_pea_pods.pdf
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.
- Freezing Peppers - http://food.unl.edu/web/preservation/freezing-peppers
- Drying Hot Peppers - http://www.scottrobertsweb.com/Ultimate-Guide-to-Drying-Hot-Peppers.php
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.
- Freezing Potatoes - http://www.best-potato-recipes.com/freezing-potatoes.html
- Canning Potatoes - http://www1.extension.umn.edu/food-safety/preserving/vegetables-herbs/canning-potatoes/
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.
- Freezing Pumpkins - http://www.farmersalmanac.com/food/2007/11/05/prepare-and-freeze-fresh-pumpkin-easily/
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.
- Fermented Radishes - http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/06/in-a-pickled-fermented-radish-slices.html
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.
- Freezing Spinach - http://momonamission.me/?p=4726
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.
- Canning Zucchini Relish - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-zucchini-relish/
- Drying Summer Squash - http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/FN_Harvest_2007-01.pdf
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.
- Freezing Winter Squash - http://borninthewrongcentury.com/2011/11/04/putting-up-winter-squash-roasting-freezing/
- Canning Winter Squash - http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/food_safety/preservation/hgic3281.html
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!
- Drying Tomatoes - http://www.ghorganics.com/Sun%20Dried%20Tomatoes.htm
- Canning Tomatoes - http://kgi.org/canning-tomatoes-step-step
- Freezing Tomatoes - http://food.unl.edu/web/preservation/freezing-tomatoes
- Canning Tomato Juice - http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/fcs3/fcs3121/fcs3121.pdf
Turnips and Rutabagas
Turnips and Rutabagas are also good storage vegetables. They can be boiled mashed and frozen as well.
- Freezing Turnips and Rutabagas - http://extension.missouri.edu/franklin/qfk/05Sept/ParsnipsRutabagaTurnips_0905.htm
My favorite way to preserve watermelon is to make jelly. The rinds also make a great sweet pickle, popular in the Southern US.
- Canning Watermelon Jelly - http://www.foodinjars.com/2010/08/watermelon-jelly-recipe/
- Canning Watermelon Pickles - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pickled-watermelon-rinds/
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.
- Freezing Herbs - http://www.simplycanning.com/freezing-herbs.html
- Drying Herbs - http://www.herbcompanion.com/Projects/The-Low-Tech-Art-of-Drying-Herbs.aspx