Putting up your food for the summer

Greg and his tomatoes at a CSA pickup. Photo by Chad Harder.
Farmer Greg Price is visiting this week, to give you a few tips on how to make the veggies last longer.  Greg manages River Road Neighborhood Farm, and he was the first of the Garden City Harvest family to take on offering winter CSA shares — shares that you pick up in late summer and fall, that the subscribers then store (freeze, can, etc.) for the winter months. He, personally, makes it through most winters without buying a vegetable, so he is an expert on storage.  I give you Greg Price. . . 

Storing your vegetables well is one of the keys to keeping up with the harvest. With a few simple steps your vegetables will last a lot longer, allow you  flexibility now and abundance of food through the winter. Fresh food should keep for at least two weeks when properly cared for.  Some food will keep for months in the refrigerator (my carrots, for example, had been in the fridge since February, and I just finished them off last week).

When you get home with your share, organize your food in a way that makes it easy for you to find: each in it’s own bag perhaps, or try grouping veggies by recipe or type.  You can use bags or containers. This is the key for keeping veggies fresh in the fridge. Think about it in terms of what will dehydrate the fastest.  How much mass does the vegetable have?  Does it have a pretty substantial skin (which usually means a skin that is too tough to eat)?

For example, loose leafy greens — no skin, minimal mass — should be washed and dried for best storage; wash them in cold water and dry them in a spinner or colander, or pat them dry with a towel. Then, place them loosely in a bag or container. If you plan on using your veggies that week, seal ‘um up.  Just make sure they aren’t wet — that will cause them to rot much faster.  Especially the more delicate veggies — like lettuces and greens.

You can also just throw your veggies in the bags and into the fridge and wash them before you eat them.  Then you don’t have to worry about drying them off.

Onions, potatoes, tomatoes, etc. (thick skins, a whole lot of mass) can skip the bag and the refrigerator.  Here’s a good list of a few fresh foods that shouldn’t go in the fridge. Most foods that can skip the bag can also skip the fridge.

Feeling overwhelmed by the CSA share?  Process some of it and put it in your freezer for later (you’ll thank yourself in winter). Or simply share it with a friend.  You certainly don’t have to take your full share, either. The food that is left at each of our farms at the end of the pickup go to those in need — distributed to places like the Missoula Food Bank, Poverello Center, Youth Homes — it certainly won’t be wasted.

One thing to keep in mind with a CSA is that you will get a lot of veggies.  A good approach to eating them is to plan meals around vegetables. Have a large salad with some kind of protein added, like a marinated meat or cooked tofu or tempeh.  Often the simplest approach with fresh food is the best way to go because it allows you to enjoy the fresh flavors.

Basic cooking methods like stir frying or grilling offer easy, interesting meals with little planning and ever changing combinations. Think about adding veggies to all of your meals. Toss in some greens and/or onions to scrambled eggs in the morning. Sandwiches and burgers and spruced up grilled cheese or mac and cheese with veggies are great ways to use a variety of vegetables. And whatever you are having, you can always eat some fresh raw veggies on the side, like carrots and cucumbers and radishes, and, of course seasonally changing salads.

Soup is another way to use lots of veggies, especially in the fall.  You can use fresh or frozen veggies for soups and/or stocks.  Looking to start making broth?  Here are some great ideas from the Nourished Kitchen. Bone broth is particularly good for you, and any good broth or stock needs a few aromatics.

A good thing to remember about vegetables is that they have a great nutrition to calorie ratio. Generally speaking, you cannot eat too many vegetables.  They are not only super nutritious and delicious, but they also contain many %28medicine%29” target=”_blank”>panacea, is one of the easiest and best ways to improve your health.

Please do respond with questions or comments — I am always happy to discuss my favorite topic. . . fresh food!