By Mary Ellen Shaw
Some of the items that you may have planted in your garden can be enjoyed beyond the time that you pick them to eat fresh. Most of us have limited space so why not grow things that can be frozen and enjoyed throughout the year? You just need to do a little extra work to make that happen.
What are some veggies that you can enjoy not only fresh from your garden but also on a cold winter day? For me it’s tomatoes, beets, carrots, zucchini and kale. They will always have a place in my garden. Hopefully, if you haven’t already planted one or more of these you will find room now.
Tomatoes are wonderful fresh from the vine but they also can be frozen whole and used later on to make sauce, soup or stews. You won’t even need to thaw them. Just put the tomatoes under cool water for 10-20 seconds and the skins will slip off. Then, while still frozen, they can go into the item you are cooking.
In our house we enjoy beet greens (leaves) as much as the beets. When you cut off the leaves new ones will soon appear. If you have an excess of leaves just steam them, dry them between paper towels and place them in freezer bags. When you are ready to eat them during the winter just steam the frozen greens and they will come apart easily. Cooking the beets themselves is a little more labor intensive than the leaves. Bring them to a boil then simmer until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the skins under cold water then slice them, pat them dry and place in freezer bags. You will find that they stick together when frozen but come apart nicely when steamed.
Carrots also freeze well and can be used in various recipes all winter. I boil them until tender, dry them between paper towels and into freezer bags they go! When we are looking for a veggie to go with dinner I often thaw and glaze them.
My husband and I love freshly sautéed zucchini. But when “zukes” decide to ripen you will probably have more than you can eat. A favorite way to use extras in our house is to make a couple of large quiches with slices of zucchini, ham, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. After enjoying a few slices of quiche while it’s fresh, I slice the rest and wrap each slice tightly in foil and put it in the freezer. Another way to use extra zucchini is to puree it. Just remove the skin and put the zucchini through a food processor. Measure it in portions to match your favorite recipes and freeze. For me that means several bags with 2½ cups to make bread throughout the winter. I also have smaller bags to use for zucchini muffins and cookies.
Kale can also be steamed, dried between paper towels and placed in freezer bags. It’s great to use in soups during the winter.
When freezing veggies from the garden it works well to put portions in individual bags that match the amount you will use in a meal or in a recipe.
One of the best features with of all the veggies mentioned above is that they can be sown directly into the soil at this time of year. They ripen throughout the summer so you can enjoy fresh veggies from your garden at different times right up until fall.
So give it a try! Eat all of the above while they are fresh then prepare and freeze extras to have throughout the winter. You will be glad you did.
Happy planting, harvesting and eating! Enjoy!