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COLUMN: Preserve summer's flavours with these storage tips

'There are many ways you can eat your organic vegetables and fruit well into the winter.'
Charles Schroder
Columnist Charles Schroder

You may raise more than you can consume during the summer months, but there are many ways you can eat your organic vegetables and fruit well into the winter.

Store root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets in moist peat at about 5 C. In a cardboard box, place each vegetable in a row, keeping them from touching. Cover each layer with very moist peat and a double sheet of damp newspaper. Continue until the box is full. Carrots and turnips should last into March, while beets and parsnips will last up to two months.

To freeze vegetables place in a freezer bag. Remove the air. Vegetables must be blanched. Beets can be cooked and frozen.

Pick peas and beans while tender. Shell the peas, trim the beans, blanch for three minutes, freeze on a pan, then store in freezer bags.

Cabbage can be kept fresh for about two months. Leave the cabbage until the first mild frost. Then pull it up by the roots, place the heads in a large container, and cover the roots with moist garden soil. Keep the soil moist. When you want to cook a cabbage, pull it out, strip off the outer leaves that have turned brown, and cook.

To freeze excess cabbage, shred, blanch, place on a tray to fast freeze, and store in a freezer bag. Or you can make sauerkraut.

The only way to save lettuce is to make lettuce soup and freeze it.

Harvest excess onions when the tops start to die off and fall. Leave them for a week or so and then pull them up. To store, cure by placing them in a hot area for at least a week. Then either hang by the stems in a cool, dry area, or cut the stems above the bulb and store in a cool, dry area. They should last for at least five months.

In late September dig your potatoes, wipe off surplus dirt, and cure for up to two weeks in a warm, dry, dark area. This toughens up the skin, resulting in less long-term moisture loss and more resistance to bruising. Then store in light-proof containers and keep at about 5 C at a fairly high humidity. They will store well for up to six months. Remember, light causes potatoes to turn green, a poison.

Harvest squash when the skin changes colour and is difficult to dent with your fingernail. Pumpkin and winter squash will keep for months. Start by wiping with a disinfectant, cure for a couple of weeks in a warm area, and then store in a dry, cool place.

Zucchini does not keep well. Eat what you can. Shred excess zucchini and freeze in a container. It becomes a good filler for stews. You can also use it in zucchini muffins or cake.

To freeze excess tomatoes, remove blemishes, cut them into quarters, and first freeze them on a tray and then vacuum seal.

You can also freeze tomatoes whole by placing them in a plastic container and filling the voids with tomato juice.

Freeze blueberries, Saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries, currents, haskaps, and rhubarb without blanching and vacuum freeze. Berries that are pitted, such as chokecherries or pin cherries, can be made into jelly or pancake syrup.

Charles Schroder is a St. Albert resident and an avid gardener.


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