Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvest Time

Jody complained the other day that our kitchen really needs to be renovated.  There's no space in there he says, I can't find a counter to work on, something needs to be done....

Now I don't totally disagree.  A kitchen renovation has been in the works since we bought this place. Newer and more spacious cupboards, an extra sink, dishwasher - yes to all the above.  But the thing is, our current problem has nothing to do with the kitchen as it stands.  My dear husband seems to have overlooked the fact that the real issue is that every single inch of counter space has been overtaken by produce.

A sample of the summer produce this year
From where I'm sitting now I can see on the kitchen island a pumpkin, beans, several sweet and hot peppers, several plastic containers full of wee cherry tomatoes, as well as a container of roasted tomatoes.  On the kitchen counter there is a salad spinner full of parsley, several cucumbers, and two extra large bowls of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness.  The kitchen window sill is serving as stage one of ripening for all the green tomatoes.  On the stove there is a stockpot full of tomato soup.  Even the bathroom has been overtaken - the sink is currently stuffed full of basil resting in cold water.  And let us not forget the food that is actually in the fridge.

What the heck are we going to do with this all this bounty?  It's a question that I struggle with each year.  How to preserve, process and cook the unending supply of food that the garden throws at me on a daily basis.  I'm sure there's a few other gardeners out there struggling with this issue right now so I thought I'd share a few ideas.

Step one - get yourself a massive stockpot.


Step two - make copious amounts of soup.  I like tomato soup as it uses large quantities of tomatoes but another favourite is a Spicy Chicken soup which uses both tomatoes and fresh made salsa (the salsa gets rid of uses up tomatoes, carrots, peppers, garlic, cilantro and onions. bonus).  Carrot soup, and pumpkin soup are staples as well.

A girl can only make so much soup so my second line of defense is a vacuum sealer.  Chop up fresh tomatoes, cook down your pumpkin, blanch your spinach and seal it all in the vacuum bags.  Easy as pie.  Actually easier than pie really.  I haven't even started baking pies yet.

As you might be noticing, kitchen tools feature heavily at this time of year.  We just invested in this fancy Cuisinart blender to help get us through the preserving season. 


Loving this for fresh made salsa and pesto.  We eat the salsa on the spot but the pesto freezes really well for use in the winter.  If pesto feels too complicated just zip through some basil and olive oil.  Once processed spoon it into an ice cube tray and freeze.  These little basil cubes are perfect for throwing into a pasta sauce later on.

Not everything needs to involve expensive tools though.  A quick and easy way to preserve parsley is simply stuffing it in a ziploc bag and freezing it.


Reach in the freezer and break off a piece as you need it.  (Thanks to Brenda for this tip!)

Drying is another simple and effective way to preserve food.  Garlic, onions and herbs all benefit from this.  I grew onions for the first time ever this year.  Proper onions.  Not marble sized rocks that smell like onions.

These babies are big, and tasty.  But they need to dry in order to store for the winter.  So I've hung them from the rafters in the garage to air out for a couple weeks.

After that all hard work the best thing to do is make cake.  Who doesn't like cake?  Chocolate zucchini cake and carrot cake go over pretty well this time of year.

and finally, my last resort.  Give it away.  Inevitably I get overwhelmed and co-workers like this time of year because they get a never ending supply of cucumbers, zucchini, basil, beans, and tomatoes. 


Recently I discovered something new though, the PEI Food Exchange.  This group is finding ways of distributing excess produce from farms and gardeners.  Whether it's a trade or giving it away to people in need they can use your garden excess.  There's never a reason for food to go to waste and this is a perfect way to make sure it gets to those who want it.

28 comments:

  1. Gosh, you have made me hungry just reading about all of this delicious food you have grown.

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    1. mmm, the eating part I can handle, it's all the prep that I find frustrating this time of year.

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  2. Nice post.
    Having lots of produce is a wonderful 'problem' to have. I've been freezing basil/olive oil cubes for years. They are perfect additions to winter stews, soups, and tomato sauces and they are easy to thaw for spreading onto pizza dough.

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    1. Basil cubes are the best aren't they? Just the right portion size.

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  3. Wow now I am super hungry. Thanks a lot. Kidding :)
    My mom cans a lot of the stuff that she makes in the summer and it lasts throughout the winter!

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    1. Wish I knew how to can. would definitely be trying that if I had a bit more knowledge on the subject.

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  4. It can get overwhelming, can't it? Especially for those of us who know frost and snow are coming. Love the food exchange idea!

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    1. That is exactly it Norah! We've had two close calls for frost already so it's a mad rush right now.

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  5. You have the shiniest stockpot in the history of stockpots!

    What bounty! I get very excited every time produce makes it into our freezer, since whatever we grow gets eaten (I don't know if this is a reflection on a lack of harvest or our mammoth appetites).

    The PEI food exchange looks great. Good luck with rediscovering your kitchen surfaces!

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    1. LOL, ya it is a bit shiny. Realized after I could see the whole kitchen reflected back at me in the picture.

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  6. Ahem....sounds like my kitchen!! Tks for the parsley tip credit, which I got from a senior in the Mt. Denson Garden Club years ago.

    Soup, and how much soup can one freeze? Big Grin. Love your new whizzer ;-)

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    1. Did you notice my onions hanging off the rake too? another tip from you :)) and I can freeze a whole LOTTA soup

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  7. How awesome is it that you have so much produce! I've broken up with my beans, the peppers have been underwhelming, and my tomatoes are on their last leg. But the basil has made up for the rest. :o) Your onions are truly impressive. :o)

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    1. Tammy, it's taken me 4 years to get this much produce. Don't give up! (besides, your flower garden is way better than mine any day)

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  8. What a luxury problem :-) I only grow radish and lettuce leaves in the summer in a couple of window boxes, just the right amount for myself, but I have herbs all year, mainly thyme and chives which I use a lot of in cooking. Thyme grows all year round here in London so I always have a supply but the chives stop in the middle of winter. In the summer I make sure to cut the chives regularly and snip it in to small bits which I have in glass jars in the freezer. Chive freezes very well and taste the same in soups, stir fries and scrambled eggs – much better than the dried, shop bought stuff. I have experimented with coriander and parsley too, and they both freeze well in glass jars, that way it won’t give off smell to other food in your freezer.

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    1. Helene, what I wouldn't give to have some produce year round, even if it was just thyme. Sadly, we'll be under a blanket of snow all too soon.

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  9. Marguerite,
    Your onions look great and seem to be drying well.
    I have all ours laid out in the garden shed along with tomatoes and drying beans for making baked beans in the Winter.
    You can also drop off extra garden produce at your local food bank. I usually drop it off on my way to work at the Salvation Army which they distribute and use in their soup kitchens.
    So glad to see your garden was so prolific and has supplied you with many freezer meals.

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    1. I didn't know the Salvation Army took fresh produce. Good to know, thanks!

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  10. This is definitely a good problem to have! Great advice for anyone with extra produce, especially giving it away to food banks and food exchanges. I have been making tons of tomato juice and sauce for the freezer, which we'll appreciate later this winter. One of the best investments I made a few years ago was to buy a food mill (I think that's what it's called) which makes quick work of separating the peels and making juice. I'll be using it again soon, because it's almost time to make applesauce, too!

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    1. I've never even considered a food mill before, interesting idea. We're always looking for new ways to save food and do something different.

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  11. It got so bad this year with the zucchini's that we were groaning when we saw another one...makes me wonder why on earth anyone plants more then 2 plants, a heir, and a spare...

    You do have quite the bounty.

    Reminds me that when the rain stops I need to get out and get some parsley.

    Jen

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    1. Jen, I can't even believe this. We planted ONE zucchini plant this year, ONE, and we still haven't been able to keep up with all the food coming off it. I mean, you can't plant less than one...??

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  12. I am so.o.o impressed, Marguerite. You have more bounty than me and you don't waste any of it. I feel really guilty when I don't get to it all. I can some, freeze some, use as much as possible while it's fresh, give some away, and some still ends up in the compost. What would I do if I had as much produce as you? I know I need an extra freezer in the basement ... next year will be different! P. x

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    1. LOL, that would be my mother's influence Pam. She never ever ever threw anything away. Something I detested as a kid but now as an adult I find it really hard to throw anything away. particularly food.

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  13. Counter tops cluttered with produce and a pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove are a nice problem to have. You should be proud that your home and garden are becoming self-sustaining. Homegrown and homemade make a wonderful combination.

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    1. Jennifer, I always moan about all the work this time of year but truly I am grateful, particularly when I can pull out fresh soup in January. There's simply nothing better than fresh grown food.

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  14. We've been having the same problem. Tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis, cucumbers. Some mornings just making coffee has been a challenge. This year the freezer is a bit jammed with surplus goat milk, so we've had even less room! I think next season I need to be better about using the food dehydrator, at least for tomatoes and peppers. Like you though, we really need to remodel the kitchen, but lately it seems there's never a good time, between canning, freezing, baking, and processing milk. On the other hand, I can't complain. There's something very satisfying about having this sort of problem!

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  15. Marguerite , Those tomato seeds you gave me all sprouted. The only problem is the names on the tags washed off and I can't remember which is which. They look like some of the ones in your photo. Harvesting and processing is the best thing about this time of year. :)

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