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Preserving Your Garden Harvest
Congratulations on a bumper crop! Now you can make tons of pesto or salsa, but you might also think about canning and preserving veggies.
Sara Gasbarra, former project manager of The Edible Gardens, Chicago’s educational garden, has some tips:
Save seeds, not only to preserve them for next year’s planting, but also for use in the kitchen. Let some of your cilantro flower and dry completely while still in the ground, so you can harvest the flower buds for the coriander seed (use it all winter long in soups, chilis and stews). Do the same with fennel that has flowered, and mustard greens for mustard seed. You can also use this seed to make pickling spice mix for your canning projects.
You don’t have to make pickling an all-day operation. If you feel you don’t have enough yield of a particular type of vegetable to make the canning worth your while, combine vegetables for a canning project: for example, make a “giardiniera” with carrots, radishes and even turnips from your garden.
Gardeners can find themselves with a lot of herbs that often go to waste. To preserve them after the final harvest in late fall, bundle rosemary and lavender and hang them upside down in a dry, cool room. You’ll be able to snip off dry sprigs all winter long. You can easily freeze sage by packing it in freezer bags. Tender herbs like basil, fennel fronds or dill won’t freeze well – make a paste with olive oil in your food processor. Freeze in ice cube trays and wrap them in a large freezer bag.
Tomatoes typically don’t have a long shelf life. Roast them whole with olive oil and place them in freezer bags. It’s a quick and easy way to preserve them, and there’s nothing more rewarding than tasting summer tomatoes in the middle of winter. Roasted whole tomatoes make excellent sauces.
Harvest your chilies and lay them flat on a cookie sheet in a cool, dry place, letting them shrivel and dry out completely. You can crush the dried chiles to make flakes, or keep them whole and snap off pieces for a sauce (you can pull it out toward the end of the cooking time). This works well for most chili varieties that have matured to their red or orange color on the vine.