Morning chill and shorter daylight hours signify the slowing down of the summer garden. We harvest and share the last of our favourites – tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, corn, peppers, but we also want that summer taste in the cold of winter. Saving the Harvest can be accomplished in many ways. Extend the pleasure of a garden by:
- Dehydrating: Specialty food dehydrators are available that circulate air at very specific temperatures over racks. But specialty equipment is not absolutely necessary to dehydrate food. Slice fruits and vegetables, including seeded squash, and place in a single layer. In the oven, dehydrate at 52°C (125°F) for 6-12 hours. When dry and brittle, store in mason jars for use in soups, sauces, and baked goods. This technique is a good way to preserve herbs. Dehydrated carrot, garlic, and onion pieces are also nice to add to winter soups.
- Fermenting: Fermenting food also enhances the nutrient content. Almost any vegetable can be fermented. You need mason jars, sea salt or celery juice, and whey or kefir grains. The fermentation process takes from 2-21 days. There are many excellent, highly detailed videos online for this process.
- Freezing: Most vegetables and fruit can be frozen and stored in freezer bags. Wash, trim, and cut to preferred size. Some vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower, corn, and spinach require blanching before freezing. Blanching is briefly dipping into boiling water and then chilling to stop the cooking process. Blanching kills the enzymes in vegetables that would otherwise allow them to go bad.
Cook beets before freezing. Freeze whole unpeeled tomatoes. Peppers freeze well without blanching. Puree or grate summer squash before freezing.
- Preserving seeds: Save seeds from fruits and vegetables that do well in your garden. Remove and clean the seeds, let dry on a paper towel for up to two weeks. To avoid confusion, label the paper towel. Store seeds in an air-tight container in a cool place. They are viable for up to three years, although germination rates decrease each year.
- Making a butter log: Chop herbs, crush garlic, and grind black pepper into a slab of soft butter. Roll it into a log, wrap in plastic, and freeze. Slice a round to top a steak or grilled chicken, pasta dishes, or steamed vegetables.
- Journaling: Keep a garden journal. Simply keep a list of what was planted, where it was planted, and how it performed. Add sketches, reflections, inspiration, recipes, and photographs.