’Tis The Season to Harvest & Preserve!
By Model Gardener Kelly Emberg
Unless you are growing garlic, there aren’t a whole lot of eatables to plant right now. So in November and December, concentrate on your harvest, which should be plentiful right about now.
`What are you going to do with it all, you might ask…
`…can, freeze and dehydrate to preserve your veggies throughout this season and beyond!
`Getting down to earth… no pun intended! You should have all kinds of root veggies needing to be pulled in your garden by now. What to do with all those beets, turnips, carrots, and radishes? Here is one solution:
PICKLE, YES YOU CAN!
Canning. Not sure why they call it canning when the outcome is a glass jar, but let’s just go with it for now. Canning is incredibly easy and if you haven’t done it, you need to start today! You will be empowered by the brine! Brine is a solution used to pickle your root veggies.
Prepare your beets. Cut off tops of beets and set aside. Cook beets with skins, in a medium or large saucepan filled with water on medium heat, until tender. Slip off the skins with a paper towel once cooled. Wear plastic gloves to avoid staining your hands. Slice or cube the beets.
Chief Pickler – Rick Field’s recipe for holiday:
• 4 cups cider vinegar with 5% acidity
• 2 cups water
• ½ cup of fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp. cloves
• 1 stick of cinnamon
• 1 tbsp. allspice berries to infuse the brine
• 1/3 cup of brown sugar
• Bring brine to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the sachet; fill sterilized mason jars with the cooked beets. Pour the hot brine in your jars leaving a little room at the top. Slide a small spatula along the sides of the jars to remove all bubbles, close with lid, place jars in a boiling water-bath and process for 7 minutes. Remove from water-bath and let cool. You can store your beets 12 to 18 months at room temperature.
DON’T FORGET THE GREENS!
Most of the tops of root veggies can be eaten. Why waste half of the harvest, right? Beet, turnip, and radish greens are all delicious added to soups or stir-fries, and smaller leaves are great added raw to salads.
FREEZE THE GREENS!
Believe it or not, all those root vegetables and other greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard freeze beautifully and it is easy to do!
Select young, healthy, unblemished leaves, preferably with tender stems. Remove any tough ribs and wash thoroughly. Blanch your greens using tongs or a spoon to submerge them completely underwater. Try to keep the water boiling and cook for about 30 seconds. Strain greens and move to a large bowl of ice water. The cold water will prevent the cooking process and help your greens retain their vibrant green color. Drain the water and ice and squeeze out as much water as possible from your greens. Form portion size balls and freeze in heavy plastic bags removing as much air as possible. This way you don’t have to thaw out the entire bag and use only the portion needed.
COOK & FREEZE!
One veggie you might have grown over the summer and into the fall is pumpkin. The great thing about pumpkins is you can use them for a variety of holidays. If you grew them, I’m sure they’ve already adorned your front door for neighborly trick or-treaters to admire. And if you are anything like me, they now are an integral part of your tablescape design!
Their dense flesh and thick skin allows them to be stored up to 3 months if placed in a cool, dry and dark place, like your basement. But don’t put them directly on a non-porous floor; instead make sure the surface underneath them allows them to breathe.
Pumpkins can be stored in other ways too. I like to cut mine in half, de-seed them, (set those seeds aside) and place on a tray, skin-side down covered with foil. Bake at 350 degrees until tender enough to insert a fork easily. Voilà! Trust me, you can do this! Once cooled, just scoop out the pumpkin, date and freeze in plastic bags. I put 2 cups of pumpkins in each bag so I’ll have just the right amount needed for the pumpkin pies & cookies I will be baking for the holidays!
Don’t forget to roast those pumpkin seeds as well. I salt mine and cook them for 15 to 10 minutes at 300 degrees pulp and all. Get creative with smoked paprika, cumin, or chili powder to spice it up a bit!
DEHYDRATION MADE SIMPLE!
PICK THOSE PEPPERS!
You probably still have a few chili pepper plants that are at the end of their season and need desperately to be picked. They have all turned a nice shade of crimson and the taste is too good to go to waste. Time to invest in a dehydrator! This is one of the easiest ways to preserve your harvest. Plug it in; spread one layer of whole chilies on the trays provided; set the appropriate setting; close the door and walk away. Don’t stop with the chilies. You can dehydrate almost anything!
TRY KALE CHIPS
Strip the leaves away from the stalk and ribs. Wash the kale and dry them in a salad spinner. Tear the leaves into desired size. Toss kale in extra virgin olive oil and salt. Massage the oil into the leaves evenly. Add spicy flavors such as cayenne pepper or your favorite herb. Add nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. Load the dehydrator trays spreading the leaves in a single layer. Dry kale at 110 degrees for about 8 hours or overnight. If your kale loses its crunch after stored, pop in in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees.
This season there won’t be much planting going on, so instead put your efforts into stretching your harvest through the holidays and winter months. Make some homegrown gifts for friends that are guaranteed to make hearts melt and taste buds soar!
Savor the holidays!
Until next year, my best,
Kelly Emberg, the model gardener
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