We are in the midst of summer harvest season here on the farm.
The garden is exploding with tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, onions, garlic, herbs,
beans, and so much more.
Every year at this time, I get several questions about what I do with all of this
Do I feeze?
Do I can?
Do I have enough vegetables to make it through the winter?
The answer is yes, and no.
We eat from our garden about 7 months of the year with very little supplementation.
Our meat is all grown locally and bought direct from the farmer.
Our eating habits have been a journey of sorts.
The more we read... the more we learn.
The more we learn... the more changes we make.
There are many things to consider when choosing to eat responsibly.
The first priority, to us, was health.
What is best for our health?
Second and almost equally important... sustainability.
What is best for the earth?
The third priority... cost.
There was a day when I might have thought that cost would be top priority.
And then I realized that you cannot put a price on good health.
So, years and years ago, as a young married gal, I started gardening...
raising what I could to supplement our grocery habits.
It doesn't take more than your first harvest to realize that what you grow is so much
tastier than what you can buy.
There is nothing more delightful than a meal that was picked within hours of eating.
To me, every minute after a vegetable is picked it loses some of its energy...
so imagine, by the time a piece of produce is picked and packed and shipped halfway around the world...it has lost most of its vitality and remains an empty shell.
Not to mention the amount of energy that was expended in getting that produce halfway around the world.
(A great reason why buying local is of such importance!)
After reading about the unbridled use of pesticides, herbicides, and genetic modification in our current system of industrial farming and the potential health risks associated with long term consumption of theses chemicals,
we made a conscious decision to eat organic.
Local, organic is preferential... albeit sometimes difficult to find.
The solution? Plant it yourself.
The amazing thing about gardening is that it does not take a huge amount of space to plant
a garden that yields a huge amount of food.
It does take a bit of elbow grease and a lot of commitment, however.
But, again...the benefits are overwhelmingly wonderful!
(Especially at this time of year.)
So, now we've decided to plant this garden and it is exploding with food...
what do we do with it all?
Certainly, canning and freezing are a way to make summer's bounty last all year long.
However, I have become very picky about what vegetables I freeze and which I process in canning jars.
I must tell you that we eat a lot of plain, clean food....
salads and vegetables take up most of our plates.
Meat is eaten in small quantities...the recipes are our culinary adventures.
Pears and peaches, if we have more than we can consume get processed in canning jars
for later consumption. I know of no other way to keep pears with the exception of dehydrating.
Fruits, such as berries and peaches freeze very well and can be kept for future use in baking, smoothies, etc.
You already know that I make a lot of jams.
We eat jam every day... and I gift a lot of jam.
Apples become applesauce, or pies, or dumplings, etc...
or dried for snacks...
My choice in what to do with vegetables is based on how we like to eat vegetables.
I hate mushy vegetables.
Canning and freezing vegetables makes them mushy.
So.... I don't.
When I cook vegetables, I use no water...none.
I sauté most of my vegetables on the stove top in a little olive oil, so that they are still crunchy.
No nutrients are lost to water or steam this way.
The veggies are crunchy and sweet and closer to raw in terms of nutritional value.
Asparagus and sugar peas and broccoli are eaten as quickly as they are harvested...
raw and sautéed.
(Green beans as well.)
I have tried freezing them in the past....mushy....yuck.... there's just no way to save the crunch!
Cauliflower, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, and winter squashes, etc. are often roasted.
Corn gets cut from the cob and frozen raw.
Sweet potatoes...store well in a cool dark cellar for almost a year.
Dried beans are stored for used later in the year.
I do love vegetables in soups....so, many of our veggies will be used in soup recipes
and frozen that way.
I prefer freezing soups over processing them in canning jars so as not to over-cook the veggies.
Tomatoes, peppers, onions and cucumbers are a different story.
Tomatoes become sauce....spaghetti and pizza...and salsa...
yes, and even tomato-basil jam and processed in cans.
The rest of the tomatoes that don't get consumed raw
(and it is truly difficult to eat 40 tomato plants-worth of tomatoes raw)
get frozen to use in recipes during the winter.
Sweet peppers are chopped and frozen as is;
while hot peppers are cooked and turned into hot-pepper relish that we eat as a daily condiment.
Onions are dried and put in cool storage in the cellar.
Some are chopped and frozen, as is...
for later use in recipes.
Cukes are eaten in salad, used for ztatziki sauce, or marinated,
or turned into pickles.
Cabbage ultimately becomes sauerkraut.
But still the question remains....
what to do with all those zucchinis, yellow squash, eggplants, etc?
My most favorite veggie dish is Ratatouille!
I came up with my own version of this a couple years ago and it remains one of our favorite meals.
Hot, Italian sausage (we are lucky to get local, un-cured, delicious sausage)
1" cubed zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant
garlic, chopped fine
kalamata olives, diced
Italian herbs....basil, thyme, oregano, etc.
(we like spicy food, so I also add some hot pepper flakes...dried from previous garden harvest)
Brown sausage in Dutch oven on top of stove, add remaining ingredients. There should be enough
tomatoes in your recipe to hold the rest of the ingredients. Allow to simmer on the top of the stove
until veggies are tender and tomatoes cook down.
It should have a stew-like consistency.
Serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.
This is terrific comfort food...that gets even better as leftovers.
All of the flavors meld together....YUM!
This is also something that can be made in large quantity and frozen for later meals.
It is also a meal that can easily be made in the crock pot.
If your garden, like everyone's, is bursting with zucchinis...
and you've never made anything but zucchini bread....
let me know...
I have a few more ideas for you!
I welcome your questions or comments....
I love to talk about food!
I love to talk about food!