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Harvesting a little at a time

by

Anna May Kinney



Nothing is more rewarding for me, than reading how successful many of you have been with your gardens this year, especially those taking on this challenge for the first time.

If my e-mail is any indication, this has been a good year for summer squash. Never have I had so many inquiries wanting to know what to do with extra zucchini. Understandably, having put all this time into growing healthy organic vegetables, people want to know how to put up their harvest so that their families will enjoy the benefits throughout the coming winter

It's sad to read how many believe this process has to be exhausting, time consuming work, that only our grandmothers knew how to do. While it is nice to can some of your vegetables like grandma did, freezing them is much easier. Some things like summer squash are not suited for the canning process and do much better suited and frozen.

Summer squash, unlike winter squash, has a short life span. While it will keep well for a week at normal room temperatures, and up to a month in a 50 F. degree room, it goes bad quickly when placed in the refrigerator or anywhere temperatures are below 50F or 10C.

Many people have asked me if they should blanch zucchini like other vegetables before freezing it. While zucchini can be frozen, blanching is not the answer. The best way of freezing zucchini is to cook it in the style you are going to use it. Say you enjoy it sautéed to serve on pasta or rice. When preparing it for supper, cook three or four times the amount you need, and freeze the extra servings. (Without the rice or pasta)

You can sauté it alone or with peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic and herbs. Most any combination will keep well; the only thing to remember is that the flavor of herbs can intensify during the freezing process, so use less than your recipe calls for. When cool spoon into a plastic bags, lay flat and freeze, by using plastic bags instead of containers, you will be saving a great deal of freezer space and after defrosting you can through out the bags and not have to wash a greasy container every time you take out a serving.

The one mistake many people make with zucchini is waiting till it is overgrown before picking it. Fruits between 12 inches and 18 inches are the most flavorful. They produce so abundantly for a few weeks, that it is often easier to leave them in the garden than be overwhelmed in the kitchen. If this is happening to you, I'd suggest you take the time to slice and sauté a few of them, then pick the others before they have a chance of getting to old, remember they will keep up to a week at room temperature. You can also follow these instructions and cooking methods when processing yellow squash and eggplant,

If suddenly you stumble on a few giant zucchini don't fret, bring them into the house and shred them. Place the measurement you need for one zucchini bread recipe (for me it is 3 cups) into a plastic bag, tie tightly as there is a lot of moisture in shredded zucchini, lay flat and freeze. Don't forget to label your bags. A piece of masking tape and magic marker will work well, but place it on the bag before not after you fill it.

During the summer, you may wind up freezing 500 bags of vegetables. Don't let this number overwhelm you by thinking of the whole job. Look at it this way; most vegetables mature at different times throughout the summer, doing a few bags at a time and in no time the freezer will be full.

Plus things like carrots, beets, turnips, and potatoes do not have to be harvested till the end of summer and can be stored in a root cellar. But if you don't have a dry cold basement to store them in, and have extra freezer space, all but the potatoes can be blanched and frozen.

When doing up your carrots, beets and turnips, wash, peel and cook whole, and after your vegetables are cool, chop them into whatever size you want, or mash and freeze. Five pounds of cooked carrots can be chopped in only a matter of a few minutes compared to the work it would take to chop them raw.

After you have eaten all you want, and frozen enough for winter, think about taking your surplus vegetables and donating them to a local food bank, you will be doing something good for others and it will costs nothing. Plus it gives children and grandchildren a good example to follow.

Here is a great summer harvest recipe:

INDIAN RATATOUILLE


This would be nice with any roasted meat.
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 8-ounce red onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large jalapeño chili, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 3/4-pound eggplants, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices
3/4 pound plum tomatoes, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds; cook until seeds darken and begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Add onion, chili and ginger; stir 1 minute. Add eggplant and zucchini slices; stir 5 minutes. Cover; cook 5 minutes. Mix in tomatoes and garlic. Reduce heat to medium. Cover; cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Mix in mint and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings