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Freeze, store garden produce for lasting goodness

There are five ways to enjoy the fruits of your gardening labours. These include eating fresh vegetables and fruits, cooking up meals and freezing them, donating the excess to your local foodbank, storing, and freezing.

There are any number of ways to enjoy the fruits of your gardening labours. These include eating fresh vegetables and fruits, cooking up meals and freezing them, donating the excess to your local food bank, storing, and freezing. In this article, we will take a look at storing and freezing.

Certain vegetables and fruits are best kept frozen. These include berries of all types, greens such as spinach and Swiss chard, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, tomatoes, turnip, beets, and zucchini. You can either vacuum freeze them with a vacuum freezer, or in a Ziploc bag with the air sucked out with a straw.

Most vegetables and berries can be frozen for up to sixth months and still be tasty.

Berries of all types, including blue berries, haskaps,  raspberries, saskatoons and strawberries are easy to store. Simply wash them, dry them, and place them on a tray and flash freeze in your freezer. They will take about three hours to fully freeze. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag and store.

Beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas must be blanched before you freeze them. To blanch, first clean and cut into bite-sized pieces. Then place them in a large pot of boiling water. Wait until the water resumes boiling and boil for another minute. Then chill the vegetable in pots of ice water for about three minutes. Pat dry, place the blanched pieces on a tray and flash freeze for up to three hours. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag and store.

 Blanching kills the enzymes involved in the process of decaying. Freezing does not kill the enzymes; only the heat of boiling water does. 

Corn, onions, sweet peppers, and tomatoes do not need to be blanched. Simply cut into pieces, and flash freeze them. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag and store.

Cook rutabaga and turnip until they can be mashed and frozen in meal-sized containers. Cook beets in slices and freeze in meal-sized containers. Shred zucchini, cook for three minutes and freeze in containers to be used in stews.

When harvesting carrots, cut off the tops and only brush off lumps of dirt. Then let them dry in the sun or a warm area for about four hours. Store carrots in cardboard boxes, in layers: a damp newspaper, a layer of carrots, a layer of damp peat, a layer of damp newspaper, and so on. Check occasionally to ensure the peat is damp. Store in a cool dry area, preferably at 5 C. They will keep well for up to five months. If you don’t have a cool area, keep them as cool as you can. They won’t keep as long.

If you want to keep your carrots in a refrigerator, cut the tops off, brush off the dirt and place them in plastic bags with holes in the sides, in the crisper.  Check and remove excess moisture weekly.  They should last for three to four weeks.

The same process can be used to store beets, rutabaga, and parsnips. However, they will only keep for about two months before they soften. Uprooting cabbage and placing the root in a tub of moist  dirt works for a month or so before the outer leaves start to rot — freezing is the better process. Rutabaga or turnip freeze best when cooked, mashed, and stored in a sealed container.

Harvest onions when the tops start to die off and fall. Leave them for a week or so and then pull them up. To store, first cure them in a hot area for at least a week, then store in a cool, dry area, between 5 C and 10 C. They can last for at least five months. If you can’t find a cool area, store them as cool as possible. They will keep, but not for as long.

Potatoes reach their maximum size just before the vines start to die off. After that, you can dig them up, or wait until before a frost. After digging, 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.  Store in light-proof containers and keep at about 5 C at moderate humidity. They will keep for up to six months. Remember, light causes potatoes to turn green, a poison. A certain amount of air circulation is desirable.

Harvest squash when the skin changes colour and is hard to indent with your finger nail. Start by wiping them with disinfectant, then cure for a couple of weeks in a warm area. Pumpkin and winter squash will keep for months in your basement.

Harvest garlic in late August when the leaves start to turn brown. Lift the bulbs out with a garden fork, gently brush off dirt, and hang for about 14 days in a dry shady area. The skin on the bulbs should become papery. Either cut the stems about two inches from the bulb and store on a tray, or braid the stems and hang in a dark dry area.

When you can’t eat all you grow, freeze or store to continue enjoying the benefits of your garden.

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