With the right preserving techniques, you can enjoy garden-fresh fruits and vegetables for a very long time.
If you find yourself with a larger yield of fruits and vegetables than you can consume or poor weather threatens and you need to harvest large amounts at once –– there are plenty of ways to minimize waste.
Surplus vegetables can be reliably stored in various different ways to keep for the leaner winter months. Many can be cooked and used to make chutneys, pickles and preserves, which will allow you to enjoy them long after harvesting. Store some vegetables chopped or whole, either pickled in vinegar or brine or blanched and frozen. If you have the equipment, many crops can be used to make delicious homemade wines in a matter of months, such as parsnips and rhubarb.
Alternatively, use vegetables, such as broccoli, peppers and tomatoes, to make soups, freezing them if you don’t want to eat them right away. If you lack inside storage space, large harvests of root vegetables can be easily stored outside in frost-proof clamps. Use air-tight jars to store chutneys and pickled vegetables.
This is an excellent way to store a variety of crops for up to six months, and one of the best ways to preserve their fresh flavors, if you freeze them promptly. Blanch all vegetables in boiling water before freezing to preserve color, texture and flavor. Consider freezing these three crops for use all year long:
- Herbs are particularly good for freezing — chop them finely and freeze in an ice cube tray.
- Freeze extra green beans, broad beans, runner beans and sprouting broccoli.
- Sweet corn should be frozen quickly since it rapidly loses sweetness after harvesting.
A traditional technique for storing vegetables is to pickle them raw in cold vinegar or to cook them and use in chutneys or preserves. These techniques conserve the flavor of the vegetables, which will often improve over a couple of months.
- Pickle vegetables, such as cucumbers, peppers, beets, cabbage, garlic and shallots cold in vinegar, leaving for a month to mature.
- Use a range of crops, such as beets, zucchini and beans to make chutneys or preserves, or mixed vegetables to make relish.
Choose a sheltered patch of well-drained soil that won’t be needed over the winter, and cover it with a 8-inch layer of sand. Dig up the vegetables, trim away any top growth and make a pyramid with them on the sand. Cover with an 8-inch layer of straw, then a 6-inch layer of soil, leaving one section of straw exposed. Crops to consider clamping include root vegetables, such as carrots, celeriac, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips and potatoes, which can be stored throughout the fall and winter.