Harvesting and Storing
Most organic gardeners make excellent resolutions about producing much of the family’s food. We plan extensive canning and freezing sessions to regularly use up the ever-mounting harvests that we intend to take from the garden. But the reality is that we are usually so busy with other things that the resolution falls apart.
Although the arts of canning, making chutney, or even drying foods are mysteries to many of us, once mastered, they provide a surprisingly satisfying and easy way to fill a sizable pantry with the finest quality foods, for use in the winter months. Preparing food for deep freezing takes a little time but is another achievable skill. Vegetable canning does require some expertise, and you will need instructions from someone competent in home canning, or follow a good book on the subject to the letter.
Start by setting aside an area to store food reserves. Everything should be off the floor and on shelves. Check carefully that no rats or mice can enter, and clean the area out thoroughly, finishing with a wipe-over with cider vinegar.
No matter how you try, the bean harvest will get ahead of you. There are only so many beans you can eat, so leave the remainder of the crop to run and seed. Broad beans are a variety that is equally delicious as a green bean, fresh shelled, or used dry. Bean seed is prone to attack by a small weevil that bores neat holes in the seed, leaving telltale traces of sawdust behind. Place all bags of bean seeds in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator to eliminate this pest.
Progressively harvest all culinary herbs. Most can be hung to dry and then rubbed down and stored in sealed, labeled bottles. Other herbs lose their delicate flavor easily. Parsley can be chopped and frozen in ice cubes or in zip lock bags in the freezer. Tarragon dries relatively poorly (it is freeze-dried commercially, as is parsley,) but readily converts its flavor to vinegar, and can be stored as tarragon vinegar, or it can be deep frozen in the same manner as parsley. Chives are also best stored deep-frozen.
Many fruits are readily stored by deep freezing or by canning, or they can be used to make preserves, chutneys, sauces, or jellies.
This is nowhere near what could be achieved, but with a little effort you will have canned and/or frozen vegetables and fruits for winter use, a huge array of dried herbs for teas and flavorings, dried beans for winter dishes, and more chutneys, sauces, preserves, and jellies than you are ever likely to need. Finally, as the bounty from your garden grows; you can always swap your excess harvest for different organic produce from other organic growers and friends living in other areas and climates. Be healthy year round and know exactly what you are consuming.