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Wannabe Farm-Girl Tackles the Harvest September 28, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S, Food Thoughts.
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I LOVE veggies!  I always have.  In fact, I remember my mom telling me that ALL of our family loved vegetables.  It was just the way it was…it was in our genes!  Of course I realized later that this was just one of her ploys to get me to eat more veggies, but it worked.  I loved them so much that even my extended family knew it, and at my wedding shower I was presented with a broccoli corsage.  Seriously! 

So being that I am a veggie lover, its not surprising that fall is one of my favourite times of the year.  The crisp air, the gorgeous changing leaves and best of all, its harvest time!  Yippee!  Apples, squash, potatoes, carrots, onions, leeks…and all the great comfort foods – soups, stews, apple pies – oh the joy of it! 

At my CSA farm, harvest day is a celebration.  We, the share families, arrive to witness the bounty.  This year was no exception.  A flatbed of pumpkins and squash, bags and bags of carrots, potatoes, leeks, onions, beets, cabbage, corn, and more.  We visit, have a few snacks, swap recipes, thank our CSA farmers, load the stash into our vehicles and happily head home. 

Here is where the trouble starts.  As I unload my vehicle, I realize I need to do something with this amazing bounty.  I don’t want to see any of my beloved veggies go to waste!  The truth is, over the years, many a veggie has met the garbage or composter instead of my family’s stomachs!  I know, it’s sad…I hang my head in shame!  But alas, I won’t give up.  Year after year I keep trying to find ways to use it all.  After many flops, I have finally learned how to make raspberry and strawberry jam.  I’m also pretty good at making zucchini and chard relish, and have become friends with my freezer.  But I know there is still so much to learn! 

 This year I thought I would seek advice from some of my friends in the GFSA Network.  I asked them to share their wisdom and was thrilled to receive many tips and tricks.  I’d like to share some of the tidbits I picked up:

Zucchini – Did you know you can grate fresh zucchini and throw it right into the freezer!  Portion it out to fit your favourite muffin or cake recipe and your set to go.  You can also cut it into small chunks, blanch for 2mins, freeze on cookie sheets and then throw into a larger freezer bag for use in soups and stews.  And if you still have lots of zucchini, you could participate in “Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbour’s Porch Day” !  Mark your calendars for next year!

Squash and Pumpkin – I find winter squash lasts quite a long time on my kitchen counter and kind of looks pretty there, but I’ve learned that it will last even longer in a cold room, heated garage, or a root cellar if you are lucky enough to have one.  If you need to use them more quickly, they freeze really well.  Just cook them (baking is simplest), mash them, and scoop them into a freezer bag or container.  You can use them later for muffins, soups and stews.  If you haven’t tried squash soup, you really must.  It is absolutely divine!!

Tomatoes – I have learned that you can freeze tomatoes right off the vine, then you simply run them under warm water, the skins pop off and they are ready to add to your favourite recipe.  Cool!  Another trick I learned from a friend is slow roasting.  Quarter your tomatoes and roast them at 200 F for as long as it takes for them to become mush (2-3hrs).  These roasted tomatoes freeze really well and are excellent in soups and sauces.  (I am sad that my tomatoes flopped this year as this is one of my faves!)

Swiss Chard and Kale – If you are lucky to still have some of these leafy vegetables, they apparently freeze quite well too.  You just blanch them for 2 minutes, no more, then you can freeze them to enjoy later.  They keep their color really well.  OR…you can make some really yummy swiss chard relish.

Corn – Blanching and freezing corn is relatively easy and especially delicious.  There is still time to get in on the last days of Taber Corn!

Leeks – I find these keep pretty well in the fridge after you clean and trim them, but apparently you can freeze them too.  Just chop and freeze…no blanching required.  Next time you make a soup or stew, toss them in! 

The last tip I received was a really great one.  If all else fails and you just can’t use all your garden’s bounty, your local Food Bank will happily share the surplus!

So what are you doing to preserve your garden delights?  I’m sure there are lots of other great suggestions and tips out there.  I’d love to hear them! 

Submitted by: Angie Dedrick, Wannabe Farm-girl and GFSA Assistant Coordinator, St. Albert, Alberta

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