18 August 2012, by gj
Freezing fresh produce in general is not difficult- with some veggies you need to blanch (immerse in boiling water for a short period of time) in order to stop the aging process, and also to retain color.
Likewise there are some, fruits in particular, that either need to be dipped in a food preservation substance such as sugar or dry ascorbic acid, or frozen in a syrup.
And then there are the ones that practically take care of themselves- you got to love it.
whole or sliced
For any food you are going to freeze, be sure to wash them off first and let them dry. Remove any stems and separate out produce that is bruised or otherwise compromised.
For many we spread them out whole on a tray so they freeze individually. In the food biz this is referred to as IQF- Individually Quick Frozen, and although we don’t have a flash freezer, we still use the term. I’ve also heard it called ‘tray pack’.
After they are frozen, place in freezer jars or bags. Vacuuming sealing is wonderful.
This method makes it easy to grab just a little of what you want- say, for Blueberry Pancakes. Num.
freezing fresh pineapple and lemon zest
1. Berries: Leave whole, IQF
2. Pineapple: Peel, cut into chunks or rings, IQF
3. Coconut: Grate, freeze in specific sizes (such as 1/2 cup) for recipes.
4. Peppers: Sweet or hot, you can freeze them whole. The sweet will get sweeter, and the hot- yea, you guessed it.
5. Bananas: Over-ripe bananas are not only healthier for you, you can get them cheap at the market. Wash (wash everything), peel, and freeze to use in smoothies or for baking.
6. Tomatoes: This is probably one of my favorites because when the tomatoes are coming in at an alarming rate, is also when I have the least amount of time to can. Even better, when you freeze a whole tomato, the skins will just slide off as it thaws. Really.
9 more in part 2 find it here.
Can you guess what they are?
Categories: freezing, harvesting, how to store
11 August 2012, by gj
As we looked at in When to Harvest -pt. 1, it’s easier to tell when to pick some veggies than others.
So here’s some more info to help.
okra in the making
• Okra: Bring them in before they get too big- you don’t want anything bigger than a 4 inch fruit; like kohlrabi, they get woody.
• Onions: The tops fall over when it’s time to pick. I love that, it’s like a button on a turkey.
• Peanuts: Grow as long as you can until the frost. Seriously, I don’t know what they do in Georgia, but if you’re going to grow them in cooler climates…good luck!
flowers soon to be snacks
• Peas: See Beans. Just kidding. Pick ‘snow’ or ‘sugar snap ‘when the pods are still small and before the fruit inside starts to get bigger. For ‘garden peas’ just the opposite- you want to harvest the pea seeds, so let them get plump. Note that some peas can be grown either way… I love that.
• Peppers, sweet and hot: Ahh the rainbow that are our summer peppers. It’s been my experience, though pepper connoisseurs may argue the point, that the more the pepper changes color, the better the flavor gets. Now I know this is a pretty general statement, and y’all need to decide for yourself… but I think a sweet peppers is sweeter when it turns color, and a hot pepper is a better hot pepper (not necessarily hotter) when it turns. That being said, I pick a few early while green to encourage growth, and then start to let them have at it. Your call.
• Potatoes: If you get early blight, you still have a fighting chance. If you get late blight, forgettaboutit. Harvest when the plant tops start to die off, or when the frost is coming. Once the tops die, it can be hard to find any remaining taters. Been there. With a trowel. Many times.
• Radish: Probably the most temperamental of all the veggies. Pick it too late, and it gets hot. Mark your calendar when you plant the seeds and harvest as the seed packet suggests.
• Squash, summer: Size- smaller is better as far as taste.
• Squash, winter: Size again, but you don’t want to overdo it. Winter squash can take some frosts- harvest what is obviously ripe early on, then bring the rest in when the frost kills the vines.
smarty pants gnome
• Sweet potatoes: Frost determines this harvest hands down.
• Tomatoes: Fry them up green or use them for jam, the obvious time to harvest is when they are at their peak color. Remember you can bring in green ones just before the frost, and many will ripen indoors on their own.
• Watermelon: This garden beauty stands alone. You can judge its ripeness by a light colored spot where it lays on the ground, you can also tap on its shell to see if you hear a ‘hollow thud’ sound. Lastly, check out the greenery by its stem- if that is turning brown, your fruit may be ready to harvest.
a perfect summer squash- zucchini
So that’s pretty much it and now you know, if you didn’t already, when to bring those gorgeous homegrown veggies inside.
Categories: faq's, harvesting, how to grow
5 August 2012, by gj
Not all veggies give you obvious clues that they are ready to harvest- sneaky blokes.
Tomatoes and green beans, sure they’re easy.
ready and willing
But how do you know when to pick a cantaloupe or corn, or even when to bring in the kohlrabi or carrots?
Well my gardening friends, that’s the $100,000 question.
And here are some answers (for free):
• Beans: For most beans, size matters. Pick them when they look ready, easy enough. For Dry/Shell beans, leave on the plant until they begin to look, well, dry. Then bring them in, shell, air out and store.
• Broccoli, Cauliflower: These cousins will bolt, aka, go to flower on you. Pick when you have a nice head, or if it looks like the ‘flowers’ (which are in fact the veggie you want) begin to separate.
• Brussel Sprouts: Again this is all about size. This underrated veggie takes much longer to grow than its relatives. Cut back some of the leaves and watch the little buds get larger. Harvest from the bottom up.
• Cabbage: Don’t be greedy. When you get a nice size head, pick it. Cabbage will split if it’s over ripe.
• Carrots: Ditto on carrots, though I’ve never had a carrot last so long in the garden as to split. Yeah continuous plantings! There is one thing about carrots, they can be deceiving. Look for one that has some heavy stems on it, brush away a little soil to get an idea of how the big the carrot is. Well, that usually works. Sometimes those carrots mess with you head.
• Celery: Once the stalks are reasonably tall, cut as needed. Just remember to never cut more than 1/3 of the plant, and don’t forget to use the leaves too!
• Corn: This is a hard one. Many gardeners told me “Oh, it’s ripe when you press on a kernel and it’s milky.” Fine…how many ears must I indent before I know? Watch your plants… after the silks have dried, your ears will be ready in 2-3 weeks (depending on the type of corn and the weather.) Ok- now’s the time to try the ‘milk test.’
• Cucumbers: Smaller is better. Nature is ironic.
• Eggplant: They get shiny. Really really.
• Greens: Keep pickin’, greens will ‘bolt’ or start producing flowers after they have reached their peak, usually in warmer weather. Pinching back doesn’t really help, the leaves get bitter.
• Kohlrabi: Harvest when about golf ball to tennis ball size. After that they get ‘woody’ or even worse, split. Either way, feed them to the chickens or add to the compost. Oh, but you can still eat the leaves!
oops and mmmm
• Melons: Probably the most asked question I get, and the hardest to answer. Other than watermelon, harvest when either they (1) slip easily from the vine (2) when they turn from a greenish color to yellow (3) when they smell like melon- esp. true for the honeydew. Learning when to harvest a melon is akin to art in the garden. Sorry, but I cannot help you beyond that, it’s a learned skill.
If this all sounds difficult, don’t let it get to you.
Like Most Things Gardening, you get the hang of it after a few ‘seasons’.
If you pick it too soon and it ripens in the house, you’re still ahead of the grocery stores.
If you pick it too late- well, that’s how we learn some lessons. And that’s what a compost bin is for.
More harvesting tips here.