Top 3 Veggies for Eat Some, Freeze Some

Overflowing Harvest Basket!

Overflowing Harvest Basket!

Wow my garden is overflowing!  The early season rain and late season heat have combined to produce a jungle out there!  As much as I love fresh vegetables in season, there is no way I can eat my way through this situation.  My friends, family, and co-workers are starting to dread my appearance with my “big bag of whatever was ripe that morning”.   While I revel in how easy it is to eat and share fresh amazing produce now, come winter the limited availability of locally raised, fresh organic produce makes me sad. So this is my survival tactic – eat now, freeze some for later. These are my top 3 veggies for this strategy:

#3.  Sweet Corn. It can be a challenge to find organic and sustainably grown sweet corn, and when I find it I buy a bunch. Who can argue against fresh picked corn, lightly steamed and served with creamy butter and sea salt, or soaked in the husk and grilled until the kernels caramelize into a nutty sweetness? That said, corn is pretty filling and I can only eat so much at once. So, while one group of ears is cooking, the other group is getting sliced off the cob, popped into freezer bags, and stacked into the freezer. I find that freezing the kernels from two ears of corn per bag provides the nearly perfect portion for winter chowders, sweet corn risotto, corn fritters, and anything else “corn”. The amazing thing is that this method seems to perfectly preserve that fresh corn “pop” and wonderful flavor.

#2.  Peppers. Peppers to me are as much of a stable as carrots, onions, and celery. I love fresh picked sweet peppers raw in my salads, dipped in hummus, or just to nibble on through the day. Peppers always seem to ripen in bulk, way more than I could ever eat before they spoil. So I eat some now, and the simply wash, chop, and freeze the rest. Although frozen peppers lose their fresh crunchy texture, they keep that summertime flavor and work perfectly in soups, stews, chili, and any other recipe that calls for peppers. One of my favorites is to use the frozen peppers in Chicken Cacciatore with a chicken from one of my local farmers.

#1 Tomatoes. Ok, I admit it, I am a tomato addict and can do an entire story just on this one fruit. I can eat tomatoes – so long as they are fresh and local – every single day and not tire of them. Even so, the prolific nature of my many tomato plants outpaces even my appetite, so while I enjoy fresh tomatoes raw in any way you can think of in season, I take a few extras and dice them and put them in the freezer. Like peppers, they will lose a little in texture, but the amazing fresh tomato taste remains and is awesome in the winter when mixed with pasta or used in any of a variety of soups and stews and sauces. My favorite winter soup is tomato, white bean, and rosemary. Even as I enjoy the slice of that Brandywine on a sandwich, I am thinking of that soup in my future as I put the remaining in the freezer.

So eat now, and eat later!  Enjoy being a locavore all year!

How a Reformed Tomato Hater Preserves Tomato Bliss

BIG Brandywine!

BIG Brandywine!

When I was young I hated tomatoes.  You know the kind I am talking about.  They were packed three to a plastic tray and wrapped in cellophane.  They were pale red on the outside and almost transparent on the inside, and they were hard.  So hard if you threw one at your brother it wouldn’t break open.  It would hurt.

I remember vividly the first time I tasted a real tomato, picked fresh and sun-warmed directly off the sprawling vine that my neighbor was tending among her flowers.  It was a revelation!  A hefty classic beefsteak that, when sliced, was larger than the bread I used to make my sandwich.  It was bright red throughout, juicy and sweet and slightly acidic.  I was hooked.

From cherries to beefsteaks and from red to yellow, purple, orange, and even black, the tastes and varieties of tomatoes available at our local farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs are astounding and delicious!  As I look at my own garden this year, I am grateful for the farmers and seed savers who have brought back my favorite heirloom varieties that seemed long gone when I was a child.  Who knew tomatoes would become one of my favorite foods?

But here is the problem.  If you are a tomato lover like me, you may have also planted many more tomatoes than you could ever eat.  Even during a harsh growing year like this one and with the late blight finally hitting my plantings, I still have more tomatoes ripening than I can reasonably consume before they go bad.  I can’t stand the thought of wasting a single tomato.  However, the thought of standing over a hot stove, canning or putting up a sauce is well, uninspiring to me!

So here is my solution – slow roasting and freezing

Take any variety and amount of tomatoes you have on hand.  Slice them in halves or quarters if need be, cherries can stay whole.   Put them in a pan, drizzle with good olive oil, add some minced garlic to taste, along with a good grind of sea salt and fresh pepper.    I wait and add herbs later.  Pop the pan in a 300 degree oven for about 2-3 hours, until you see the tomatoes caramelize.  Remove them and when they come to room temperature, pack into the container of your choice and freeze!

Some cold and blustery Friday night in February, when you are settling in for the weekend and in no mood to go out, take this out of the freezer.  It is delicious served with hot fresh pasta, or you can chop it up more finely and use it as a topping on any kind of toasted bread – it makes a great bruschetta or pizza depending on the herbs and other toppings you choose.   Now you can enjoy your fresh local tomatoes all year!

Roasted Tomatoes with EVOO and Garlic

Roasted Tomatoes with EVOO and Garlic

Being a Locavore, because I Can’t NOT be a Locavore

Our Locavore Challenge starts tomorrow, September 1st!  We invited our Locavore Challenge intern, Tess, to write a post about what that word, “locavore,” meant to her.  Here’s her great response.

When I was asked what being a “locavore” meant to me, the first thing that came to mind was spending summer vacations at home with my mom and little sister. My mom was prepping us to be locavores without us even being aware with her close attention to (or what we thought was an obsession, at the time) what foods were in season during the summer months and beyond. Strawberries, cantaloupe and black cherries were always a part of our breakfast and mid-morning snack breaks between playing in our infamous dirt pile. Corn on the cob was a staple of our nightly dinners around the picnic table in our backyard. Eating asparagus past June was a no-no (which was fine with me, as I hadn’t developed a taste for it yet). To this day, my mom almost never buys produce out of season due to her old adage of it “just not tasting right”.fresh rasberries

Now that I am older and a little bit wiser when it comes to shopping for produce, I totally understand why my mom was so adamant about only buying produce in season. There is something about picking a strawberry fresh off the vine in the beginning of the summer that just doesn’t compare to buying them from the grocery store in the off season, after it has probably traveled thousands of miles from its original patch. Besides the great taste, the other big motivation for me to embrace my inner locavore is knowing that I am supporting local farmers and my community in more ways than one. I grew up in the country, and the thought of giving a boost to my local economy and reducing pollution in any way I can is comforting. It just makes more sense to me – we live in a world where big corporations seem to cast a looming shadow over local farms and small communities, so each time I buy something fresh from a farmer in my hometown; it really does make me feel better about myself and my community. How could it not? I realize that at this point in my life, I can’t really imagine shopping or cooking any other way when it comes to my produce.

Can you guess what month this photo was taken?  Hint: everything was harvested at the same time, in Rochester, NY.

Can you guess what month this photo was taken? Hint: everything was harvested at the same time, in Rochester, NY.

That’s why I’m excited to see how many other people get motivated to go locavore during NOFA-NY’s Locavore Challenge in September. I’m glad I got to grow up with a locavore of my own. Thanks mom!

Fresh Picked, My Favorite!

 

All "Jazzed Up" about the first veggies of the summer!

All “Jazzed Up” about the first veggies of the summer!

Finally!  After months of eating roasted root vegetables, pickled and preserved products, and most recently more asparagus than is wise, my garden is yielding its first fresh summer vegetables.  Jazzy my Corgi is a big fan of visiting the garden and is not above stealing green beans and tomatoes out of my basket for herself, but to her grave disappointment, it is not yet time for those. 

 

So far my garden has given me some very nice early cauliflower, young Swiss chard, spinach and a variety of lettuces.  The parsley and cilantro in the herb garden are going wild, but the basil seems to be lagging.  The tomatoes are so excited with the long-awaited sun and rain, they are growing and flowering with abandon and I am not too sure those extra strong tomato cages are going to work this year!  The sweet potatoes are eeking along and I wonder if I will actually get sweet potatoes this year, or spindly tubers like last year.  Patience is my challenge with root vegetables, I always want to check them!

This is the time of year when I discover my plants are conspiring to undo my planning.  I ended up with some asparagus self-seeding in my flower beds, and some poppies self seeded into my tomato beds.  A volunteer violet has shown up in my roses.  It looks nice, but I have no idea where that came from!  There is an iris blooming in the brush along the hedgerow.  My lawn, such as it is, appears to be transforming into a sea of Greek Oregano.

How is your garden growing so far?