Enjoy fresh, friendly food from local farmers and grow your own bountiful garden by planting these super simple winter storage crops:
Two words: freeze ‘em. The best kept secret in food preservation is how easy it is to freeze tomatoes. Throw them into plastic bags whole and put them in the freezer. This will take next to none of your time during the busy summer. In the fall and winter, pull them out at your leisure and use them any way you would canned tomatoes. If you’re not into skins, they’ll slip right off after the tomatoes thaw. Here’s a killer Tomato Soup recipe that we make with frozen tomatoes and preserved herbs.
2. DRY BEANS
We’ve got great news for you: home cooked beans are delicious! They’re hearty and have way more character than boring mushy canned beans. Plus, they’re easy to store and they keep just shy of forever. Get your cooking method dialed in – crock pot, stove top or pressure cooker – and we promise you’ll become a believer. In the garden, dry beans are a low-maintenance crop during the summer. The job of shelling can happen hanging in the back yard with friends or in front of the fire as the nights grow long. Make sure you choose varieties bred for use as dry beans, like these.
Any idea how many sprigs of dried thyme it takes to fill up a whole spice jar? Oodles. Buckets. In other words, lots. Oregano, dill, winter savory, rosemary, thyme – grow your own and dry them for year-round seasoning self-sufficiency. Likewise, herbal teas are fantastic to grow in the home garden. Dried sage, lavender, hyssop and mint all make aromatic teas, by themselves or mixed with white, green or black tea. Drying is easy: hang upside down in small bunches until they’re crispy, then jar for freshness.
4. HOT PEPPERS
If you like peppers so hot you have to strip to your knickers, you’d better grow your own. Scorching varieties like Serranos or Habaneros aren’t likely to come in a CSA share for fear of scaring off less hearty members. Grow them for fresh eating, or use your bounty to make killer DIY hot sauce. There’s a great step by step guide at WikiHow that we’d recommend checking out (including a fun video).
Because who can really get enough berries in the summer anyway? Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries… we’d all eat gallons if we had the chance. And extras are a snap to throw in the freezer for winter smoothies, sauces, or to keep the morning oatmeal interesting. If you don’t want to deal with chipping apart a big chunk of frozen berries, spread them out on a cookie sheet to freeze and then throw ‘em in a freezer bag for easy access later.
If you’re the pumpkin carving type, consider growing your own jack-o-lanterns. Pick a variety that’s big enough to carve, but that’s also good for soups, in baked goods, or stuffed. You can eat your fill and carve the rest. Or grow beautiful varieties to put on display and skip the carving altogether. Note: Any type of winter squash, from acorns to Hubbards and spaghetti squash, are fantastic easy keepers through the early winter months. Keep ‘em in a well ventilated spot at about 50 degrees.
Harvesting potatoes is like hunting for treasure, except better, because you can eat the potatoes. You’ll get a variety of them throughout the season in a CSA share, but you can grow your own storage potatoes easily for the fall and winter. Resist the urge to harvest right after the plant blooms; instead, wait until it’s mature and the foliage dies back. Let them cure in the dry soil for a couple of weeks, then harvest. Choose varieties that keep well, like Katahdin, Kennebec, Yellow Finn and Yukon Gold.
Do’s: save only unblemished taters; keep them in a cool, dark, ventilated place; eat within 2 or 3 months.
Don’ts: wash until you’re ready to use them; keep them in the fridge; expose them to sunlight.