For most gardeners in many regions, later July signals the beginning of the end. The garden has had time to grow and has started to produce a beautiful bounty of delicious delectables! Most harvests start in late July and some extend well into the fall season. For the average vegetable gardener, this is a time to rejoice and a time to feel remorse. The garden’s life is slowing, but knowing the right tricks to extend a harvest and enjoy it for months to come will tide most gardeners over until next season. Saving vegetables is a cost-effective way to reduce an individual or family’s grocery bill, cutting it significantly because they are not purchasing produce.
At the time of harvest, only ripest vegetables from a garden are taken. Many vegetables can be harvested for freezing, one of the easiest methods of preservation. Certain vegetables, however, will not keep well by freezing. This is a matter of an individual’s choice, however. Those vegetables that don’t necessarily keep well are: cucumber, onion, zucchini, and cabbage.
Most others will. Asparagus, green and yellow beans, corn (taken off the cobb), carrots, peas, sweet and hot peppers and tomatoes (crushed) and pumpkins are all vegetables that can be frozen. Simply, these vegetables must be harvested and cleaned as they would for an immediate meal. Once this has been done, a stock pot is filled with water. There should be enough water to cover the vegetables being preserved. Boil the water. A pinch (about 1 teaspoon) of salt can be added at the beginning before the water boils for flavor purposes, though is not necessary. The vegetables are placed in as the water boils and are boiled for approximately 5-7 minutes. This process is called “blanching,” which does not fully cook the vegetable, but does help to sterilize it. After the time is up, the stove is turned off and the pot is drained. Ice is placed over the vegetables to cool them quickly. Once they are cooled, they are packed into freezer bags of any any size (quart, gallon, etc.). Assure the vegetable cools and that the bags are completely closed and any remaining air is pressed out of them. Promptly place them in the freezer.
Vegetables will keep for months at a time in the freezer, but chances are any normal gardener will use them up before they have a chance to be unedible. To use the preserved vegetables, pop them out of the freezer, thaw and prepare according to the dish being made! Enjoy!
Note: Blanching does not rid the vegetable of all bacteria that could be on it, nor does freezing. All vegetables should be cooked thoroughly upon removal from the freezer.