Thursday, July 16, 2015

This is How We Eat...

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
garden goodness.
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 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 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, 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.

Bev's Ratatouille

Hot, Italian sausage (we are lucky to get local, un-cured, delicious sausage)
diced onions
diced peppers
diced tomatoes
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!


  1. Thank you for the breakdown of how you utilize all your produce, and I do have a few questions. Do you blanch your corn before freezing the kernels and have you ever frozen whole ears? Also, I have just been gifted a dehydrator and I have read you can dehydrate pears. Ever tried that? You are very fortunate to have organic, locally grown meat so close to you. Makes things much easier! And may I be the first to start the chant of "Cookbook, cookbook,cookbook!"

    1. Kathy....I do not blanch corn...just freeze it as is...kernels cut off the cob. I have never frozen corn on the cob. We really don't eat a lot of corn, so we eat it on the cob in the summer and then what is left in the garden I freeze for soups, etc. Yes, pears are excellent dehydrated! Believe me, I count my blessings each and every day that we are in such a good spot for organic food. I barely ever buy a piece of meat from the supermarket.....just an occasional organic chicken breast.

  2. this is such a good post and it really made me think! i used to have a much bigger garden than i now have. like you, i hate mushy vegetables. so, other than tomatoes and pickles, i really don't do much canning. i find that i now buy most of my stuff from local farmers. this allows me to buy just what i can use. we are having the most wonderful day here today. sunny, breezy and cool. too bad i am locked in my basement for most of the day.

  3. Amazing and informative post Beverly . . .
    I wanted to,picket your energy and have access to every bit of your FRESH food world.
    The best I can do for myself, ourself, is to purchase from the local markets . . . and fir that, we do not fail.
    That one word above should be pocket, not picket and for, not fir. (I can't go back and correct, it locks up on my iPad.)

  4. Wow! That was sooo helpful....thank you! TerriC

  5. Your first picture is lovely..very colorful..Should be on the cover of a cookbook..Things have certainly changed in the food world mostly because of all the processing and chemicals that are used now..Your post was a wonderful example of how to get around it..I hope you are enjoying this beautiful/perfect day..Of course you are !!

  6. What a great informative post - thank you. I too dislike mushy vegetables. Question - how do you freeze tomatoes? I can only do so much sauce.
    Thank you again

    1. Jacky....tomatoes are the easiest to freeze!! Just cut off the stem scar, place on a tray and freeze. Once frozen, place into a freezer bag and put back in the freezer. They are then perfect to throw into sauces, stews, soups, etc. Just remove from freezer and toss in your recipe. If you wish to peel them....Take them out of freezer and run under warm will slip off easily. No need to blanch tomatoes because of their high water content.

  7. Great post, Bev!!!. I love to garden too. My parents always had one growing up and I am spoiled by the taste of a freshly picked tomato or cucumber. I have loads of zucchini and yellow squash this year. My English cucumbers succumbed to wilt and I had to pull them out. I have some excellent recipes for squash. I made a zucchini "butter" that is simple and delicious piled on a baguette with goat cheese. I also made a killer zucchini chocolate cake last week. And last night I made a squash lasagna. I just substituted lengthwise slices of squash (blanched) for the noodles. So light and delicious. And if you have never had a stuffed fried squash blossom, try it...delicious. I make my own ricotta for them. So easy and better than the stuff in the tub

  8. Sounds like y'all are eating well all year 'round. Your produce is so abundant, you are blessed to be able to feed yourselves. Have you ever thought of donating some of your excess to a local food bank, soup kitchen or Meals on Wheels program? I'm sure they would love having local, organic goodies.
    Ratatouille is one of my favorites as well, but I make a vegetarian version. Enjoy!

  9. So very interesting. Getting late...must get to bed. I will be reading this over again tomorrow!! Thank you so very much.


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