Environmental Learning Gardening Q & A Green Schools & Classrooms Natural Play

Preserving Garden Goodies

Thank you to Renae Kuehl who asked the following questions about her August garden:
1) Now that things are starting to ripen, how do you preserve things? Canning?
2) Also- you mentioned once to consider planting a late season crop… Am I too late for “late” season? If not, what do I plant??

I like to freeze, can, store or dry garden goodies depending upon what my family likes to eat and what is abundant.  Each year I try some new recipes, but overall find the following resources to be fabulous:  Blue Book Guide to Preserving by Ball (available at Fleet Farm and http://www.freshpreservingstore.com/ball-blue-book-guide-to-preserving/shop/229696/), Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, and Organic Gardening magazine.  If you find any great recipes please pass them alongor post them to the GGH page- I’d love to try them!

If you find some great recipes and your own preserving experiments turn out well, it may influence your garden planning for next year!  Here are some ideas of what you can do with your garden goodies.  Tomatoes, celery, peppers and onions go into jars of salsa and spaghetti sauce.  Cucumbers typically don’t freeze well but are great for refrigerator pickles, crock pickles, or canned pickles and relishes.  Each year I say I that I’m going to make jam with the raspberries but end up eating them fresh, blending them into smoothies and freezing most of them instead.

Beans and broccoli get blanched for 2 minutes then frozen in freezer bags.  This can be done with tomatoes too.  Some people blanch and freeze tomatoes now then make salsa in fall or winter- I don’t because I don’t have the freezer space.  Especially with all of those raspberries and beans!

Herbs can be washed then layered in paper towels then frozen.  Another great trick for herbs is to use ice cube trays.  Either puree and freeze in water into cubes or blend herbs with ingredients into pestos then freeze in cubes.  Fresh basil, dill, lemon balm, and cilantro make burgers, tacos, pizza, spaghetti, chicken and soups taste like summer!

When winter squash like pumpkin, acorn, or butternut have grown big enough I cut them off  vine leaving a 3-4 inch stem.  The stem acts as a wick to dry out the “outer shell” so the squash can last for months at room temperature or below without getting moldy.   Since I don’t have a cellar or a cool, clean place in my basement I keep them on a shelf for fall décor then in a wicker basket in closet with good air flow and cooler temperatures.

Finally at the end of the season I make a few veggie lasagnas by thinly slicing zucchini lengthwise and layering roasted tomatoes, peppers with basil and cheese.  If there are eggplant left I make it into a spicy sausage ratatouille and freeze batches for quick winter suppers.

On to question 2 about late season crops.   As Minnesota’s climate changes, it is difficult to predict how long or short the growing season will be.   The USDA Plant hardiness maps from 1990 and 2012 show these changes (http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/).  Basically, the Twin Cities metro area may have a longer growing season but can expect more extreme weather patterns throughout the growing season.  Either way, planting seeds is a fairly cheap way to experiment and give things a try.  There are some garden goodies, like kale and broccoli, that even taste better once the frost has nipped them!  Broccoli, kale, and cauliflower can go in as a second crop in August if you can find the plants or if you started seedlings in July.  If your spring peas have stopped producing you can clip them at ground level, compost the vines, and put in some seeds that will give you shoots and possibly peas to harvest.  Warm weather makes lettuces bolt, which means they send up a seed stalk and taste bitter, so August is a great time to pull out the old and reseed new.  Plants that do well in the spring due to cool temps and less daylight may do well in fall as temps drop and daylight decreases.  Good luck with your fall gardening experiments!  Play, learn, love with Growing Green Hearts.

August 2013