Vegetable Triage: three things you need to know
It is that time of year when our CSAs and gardens become heavy with produce. I find myself scrounging for enough bags and stacking leftover containers strategically so I can fit all my veggies in the fridge.
Lettuces, kale, chard, collards, beans, zucchini, eggplants, herbs. . . These will all go bad within a week or two if stored in a plastic bag in your fridge. These are the items you need to use, or freeze/can in the next week. That can be easier than it sounds. So long as we don’t get another huge storm with tons of power outages. More about that in a minute.
Storage and Storage-ish Veggies
Carrots, beets, garlic, and onions (the sweet onions — walla wallas for example don’t last as long, but will last up to 3 weeks in your fridge, in a plastic bag — other stronger onions you can cure for 3 – 4 weeks and will last for the whole winter!) will last a good deal longer in the fridge. I have kept a bag of carrots in my fridge for months at a time with no problem. Sometimes they require a bit of peeling before use.
There’s a theme here — they are all roots! Winter squash will be here before you know it, and they are another crop that you can cure and store for the winter.
Finally, processing veggies
There are many resources on how to process and store all of these veggies. Some have the patience for canning — and as Amy Poelher says, “Good for you, not for me.” I freeze instead. It is easier, so long as you have the freezer space and doesn’t require you to cook out as many of the nutrients in the food.
Pesto is something I just made this past week — so much basil! And froze it in an ice cube tray which will make getting meal-sized servings out of the freezer a snap in the middle of winter. There are many herbs you can preserve the same way using olive oil and minimal hassle.
Drying your food is also a great way to preserve it — it can be used for all sorts of things, from fruits to veggies (ever tried making beet chips? Dehydrated Kale chips can also be amazing.) and even jerky. I use a dehydrator, but you can also use your oven on its lowest setting for many things.
I have done it before, and know and respect many who do it. I am no expert, however. The folks at the National Center for Home Food Preservation know all about it. Also, our local book stores sell some great guides to canning. You certainly need to know the right methods, cooking times, and sterilization techniques to make sure you keep those ugly bugs out of the cans.