People who associate August with the slow lazy days of summer have never had a vegetable garden.
True most of the weeding should be complete but what does one do with all that produce?
Eating as much as possible and giving the excess away is the easiest option. If food supply safety is a concern it is time to harvest and store.
Choose fresh tender produce that are at their prime. Discard any that are old or diseased.
Remove any inedible part which includes pods, husk and stems.
Wash well insuring the produce is clean and free of dirt, diseases and bug eaten areas.
Freezing, canning, drying, pickling and cold storage are all options. Each method affects the texture, taste and the nutritional content . It is up to the individual to decide what they like best.
Freezing is the “modern” method.
Frozen vegetables are usually heated or blanched before freezing as it stops or slows the enzymes that cause the produce to age.
Without heat the aging process will continue throughout the freezing cycle and can result in an old inedible product.
A vegetable is blanched by placing it in boiling water for a designated period of time then plunged into a cold bath.
Once cool the vegetables are removed from the cold water and immediately placed in a container to freeze.
Produce can be placed into individual containers or one a large sheet. Produce that is frozen on a large sheet will need to be packed in an air tight container once frozen.
This method will allow varying amounts of food to be removed and used at any given time.
Small fruits freeze well without being blanched.
Canned fruits and vegetables were part of everyday life until fresh produce became readily available.
Produce was either placed in the jars hot and sealed or cold and a hot sauce or brine was poured overtop.
Once sealed the jars were placed in a canner on the stove where the jars and contents were heated for a predetermined amount of time. If canned properly, all pathogens are destroyed.
Canning is still a viable method of keeping produce. Research has been done to insure that the finished product is safe for consumption. Read and follow current methods before starting.
Initially canning is expensive as equipment, jars and canner have to be purchased. But this equipment will last for many years before it needs to be discarded.
Jam, sauces, preserves and pickles are still popular methods of preserving produce.
Dehydrating food was always a possibility in warmer climates but not cooler ones. It is a process where liquid is removed from the food to keep it from spoiling.
The heat has to be high enough to evaporate the liquid but low enough that the food does not cook. Once dehydrated and stored in an air tight container food will last a long time.
The easiest method is to use an electric dehydrator that provides heat and a fan to keep air circulating. It is possible to dehydrate in an oven or make a solar dehydrator.
The smaller the pieces of produce the quicker the liquid evaporate and the food dries.
Dehydrated food can be eaten as is or placed in water and reconstituted.
It is possible to keep vegetables in a cold or cold area for a number of months.
Root crops such as potatoes and carrots are the most popular but onions, parsnips and squash also keep well. Make sure that all vegetables are clean and free of cuts and bacteria.
Produce such as apples that give of an ethylene gas should not be placed with produce that is susceptible to the gas.
How you store excess produce will determine how long it will keep and how it is eaten.
When trying something new, make a small batch to insure it is something that will be eaten before preserving a large amount.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain house. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or firstname.lastname@example.org