We’re in full harvest mode around here. The heat has been a blessing for many of the summer loving vegetables, and as long as I keep enough water on them they are growing like gangbusters.
John and I picked tomatoes destined for the dehydrator the other day. It’s great having a little guy who loves to crawl in those massive tomato plants to ferret out the ones that are ripe deep within the plant. I point and he goes after them. We dehydrate a fair amount because I make a dried tomato spread that, I think, is the only reason I’m invited to some social events.
When I’m in a hurry, I’ll pop them in a freezer bag, and just pull them out as I need them. The skins come out when you cook them, and it’s not a big deal to fish them out of a sauce with a fork.
For the bulk of them, I’ll make sauce using the Victorio strainer that separates the pulp, skin and seeds from the juice. I learned about the strainer years ago after interviewing a woman who canned enough food for her large family. It’s one of those kitchen tools that I couldn’t believe I’ve gone decades without having at my disposal. The best part is how much the kids like to use it. They fight over who turns the crank. Canning is a big task, so anytime I have willing hands, it makes the process a whole lot easier.
The sweet peppers, particularly my favorite variety ‘Carmen’, are ripening almost on a daily basis, which makes me happy for nightly salads. It surprises some people, but we don’t have much for green salads in the summer. When the lettuce bolts in the heat, it’s time to switch gears to other vegetables. This time of the year we eat cucumbers, sweet peppers, and tomatoes in my husband’s salad (I just grow them; I don’t eat them!). Top it with feta cheese, balsamic vinegar and maybe some torn up basil. Green salads can wait.
We have the ‘Polana’ fall-bearing raspberries so it’s time to harvest them, as well. We pick bowlfuls daily eating as much as we want, and freezing the rest to use in smoothies or make jam later in the year.
Beans are another that are hard to keep up with at this time of the season. It seems you turn around and another mountain is staring at you. We eat quite a few sautéed in a pan with butter and garlic, or I toss them on the grill. The rest go in the freezer. I’ve canned them in the past, but honestly, some things are better frozen. Canned beans are pretty much only good for soup.
I noticed the onions need pulled and cured. I could leave them in the ground for another several weeks, but I want to plant a buckwheat cover crop as soon as they come out of the ground. The tops of the onions are all bent over (they have been for well over a week), which ends the growing process. In the next few days, I’ll pull them and place them on a tarp in a single layer in the garden shed. This allows the skins to cure so the onions hold up during storage. After a few weeks, I’ll cut off the tops and store them in a bin in the pantry. They will last until next spring.
Celery is another vegetable I look forward to storing for the winter. Many people are surprised we can grow celery, but it’s super easy and far superior in flavor to what we buy in the store. I use a variety called ‘Tango’ because it matures well in our short season. I start the seeds in March, but don’t set out the tender seedlings until late May. The big thing with celery is to keep enough water on it. I use it throughout the summer, but when it comes to keeping it for the winter, I simply cut down the whole plant, clean and chop the celery into useable pieces, and then blanch them for 3 minutes. Drain and place them in freezer bags. Obviously, you can’t use this in salads, but it’s perfect to be able to grab a handful or two when I’m cooking.
Putting up food at this time of the year is time consuming, but there’s nothing like enjoying the results of the hard work when there is knee deep snow on the ground.