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Monday, September 26, 2011

Mealtime from the Garden

Ya know the part on "Forest Gump" where Bubba is talking about all the ways to make shrimp? Yah, ya do. "There's shrimp creole, baked shrimp, broiled shrimp, jambalaya. You can steam 'em, fry 'em." Ok, that's not a direct quote, but you get the point.

We'll I feel like that about my garden. I would have never thought I'd be able to grow anything, let alone learn what to do with it once it was harvested. Old trick.

I have 200 things I can now do with squash, zucchini, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, raspberries, green peppers, Anaheim peppers, jalapenos, potatoes, onions and herbs. Besides eating it fresh, you can cut and freeze a lot of this kind of stuff, you can stew and bottle it. You can puree and freeze it, you can combine some of them together and bottle it or freeze it. You can give some away to family and neighbors.

So this month the garden is at full harvest. I always know when we are about done picking stuff because all my baskets and bowls are full of stuff to process in one way or another. I am grateful for this education I have gained and am passing along some knowledge to my readers--yeah, all 8 of you.

What can I do with...

Bake bread or muffins. Once cool you can store them in plastic bags and freeze them for later. You can also just shred the zucchini and freeze it in bags to cook with later. You can also dehydrate slices for soups and stews in the winter.

Bottling these is not science. Ok, well it is scientific, but not rocket science. My good friend Delle taught me over the phone how to do it. If you don't want anything to do with kickin' it old school, then you can cut them into slices, mix them with olive oil, sprinkle them with pepper or herbs and roast them in a 200 degree oven for 12 hours. You can take the skins off and juice them for sauce or tomato juice. Don't forget about salsa and stewed tomatoes with onions and peppers for later.

Spaghetti and Banana squash
Share them. Or if you eat them, cure the skins by picking them, wiping the dirt off and drying them for a few days. Then store them in a cool, dark place--root cellar or basement cement room.

Roast them in the oven--350 degrees for 10 minutes. The skins will blacken and fall off. Then cut them, put them in sprayed muffin pans and freeze them for 1-2 hours. Take them out and store them in plastic bags in the freezer. This is how we do Anaheim peppers and use them in stews or chilis.

You can cut up Green peppers and freeze them without the roasting process. You can freeze jalapenos whole. These work well for sandwiches, stir fry and casseroles.

These don't last long at our house, but I did manage to freeze enough for jam. You can freeze your harvest in small batches, as the bushes harvest gradually, and use them in jam when you have enough.

Potatoes and onions
If you don't use these right away they can stay in the ground through the winter. Since I hate digging my food out in the snow, I store them in burlap bags in the cellar.

Cut them up and freeze them or dehydrate them. I love them in soup and stew during the winter.

So, what about now? Tonight we are having Haystacks. If you don't know what this is, it's a pile of rice topped with fresh veggies, chopped ham, cheese, pineapple and mandarin oranges, nuts, raisins and chicken gravy. I know it sounds weird, but it's surprisingly good. I love it because everyone will eat it, since they can skip the toppings they don't like.

Haystacks (an anything else) taste so good with fresh chopped peppers, onions, carrots and tomatoes.

Another way to use your fresh garden stuff is wraps or sandwiches. I discovered a trick for my kids this weekend. If I use my peeler and peel a few carrots onto their sandwiches, they are none the wiser.

Salad is an obvious choice. And don't forget about a good chili or stew.

Happy Harvesting

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