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Storing Your Harvest Through the Winter

Meredith : October 7, 2014 6:15 pm : Blog

Fall harvest is in full swing. Together we’ve grown lots of goodies in your garden and now its time to reap the rewards. We’ve tried different techniques for winter storage and would love it if you tried them as well.

Different plants have different considerations, but some general guidelines are:

  • Be extra careful when harvesting what you want to store during winter and keep only the best vegetables: bruised or diseased produce spoils sooner and encourages others to spoil too.
  • Pick produce at maturity-neither unripe or overripe. Be mindful of your frost dates.
  • If possible harvest during a dry spell.
  • Aside from gently brushing off large clumps of soil you don’t really need to wash your vegetables. In fact, it’s better not to wash them until you’re about to eat them.

Root Vegetables (Apples Too!)

After you dig up your root vegetables you’ll want to chill them as soon as possible; don’t leave them out in the sun. To prevent spoilage you’ll want to trim off the green tops, leaving a one-inch stub. Remember that any skin breaks could invite spoilage, so don’t cut the root flesh or tips. Place your root vegetables and apples in a large box or crate. Packing them in sawdust can help prevent drying out and is easier to wash off than sand, which some people use. Store in a place that can stay consistently cool. A root cellar or basement would be best, but the most important thing is that temperatures should stay in about the mid 30s.

 

Curing

Some vegetables should be cured to keep over winter. Curing is important because it helps get rid of excess water and makes the skin harder. Harder skin helps resist rot better. One benefit of curing sweet potatoes is it will help heal nicks and cuts, so be sure to snap off dangling roots before the curing process so those cuts can heal.

Although the general idea for curing is the same for all vegetables (keep in a warm place for a period of time) there are some adjustments depending on what you’re curing:

  • Onions and Garlic: Clip off their tops, leaving a one-inch stub. Expose to the sun for one week. Afterwards spread them loosely in shallow boxes, or hang in net bags or old panty hose.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Leave in a warm, humid environment for about two weeks. Ideally, temperatures should be 80-85 degrees with 80-90 percent humidity. You can try doing this in a small pantry with a space heater and bucket of water. Make sure to monitor the temperature and humidity.
  • Winter Squashes: Leave in a warm, sunny spot with good air circulation for two weeks. To promote air circulation, try placing your squash on chicken wire stapled to a wooden frame or a plastic bedding flat with a mesh bottom. *Note: DO NOT CURE ACORN SQUASH. Acorn squash can become stringy if not moved to a cool place right away.

Love these ideas but don’t have the crops to store? Get in touch with us to see what we can grow for you next year. Email garden@loveandcarrots.com.

Contributed by Ian Whittington

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Let’s Get Canning

Meredith : September 23, 2014 3:27 pm : Blog

CanningHave you been wondering what to do with all the vegetables and fruit you’re getting? Of course you could just eat it, but perhaps you’re harvesting faster than you can cook. Or maybe you just want to have some stuff ready for winter. If any of this sounds familiar then you might want to try out canning.

While canning can be intimidating, it’s a great way to preserve your harvest. In fact, according to the CDC 1 in 5 people can their own food, with 65% of those people canning vegetables. But if you do can its vital that you do it the proper way. Canning improperly can allow your food to be contaminated by botulism, a serious illness that can affect your nerves, paralyze you, or even cause death.

That may sound scary, but let’s keep it in perspective. Between 1996 and 2008 116 outbreaks of foodborne botulism were reported to the CDC. Only 18 were related to home-canned vegetables, so it is rare. Also, these cases were the result of improper technique and ignoring signs of food spoilage. This shows why it’s so important to take the time to can properly.

So what is the proper way?

Well, that depends on the acidity of what you’re canning. If you’re canning high acid foods, which are those with a pH of 4.6 or lower, then you’d want to use the boiling water bath method. Got some Goji berries? This method is perfect for jams.

The boiling water bath method involves packing jars with food, completely covering the jars in water, bringing the water to a boil, and processing for 5-85 minutes depending on the food and style of pack. Besides jams and jellies, pickled items are perfect for this method because their high acid content prevents spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum from growing. This is important because absent a highly acidic environment it takes a temperature of at least 240 degrees F. to kill them.

Although traditionally tomatoes have also been canned with this method, it isn’t as advisable as it once was. Tomato acidity is on the borderline for boiling water baths, so nowadays it is recommended that lemon juice be added to raise the pH level. But if you add any other vegetables into the mix your concoction becomes a low acid food, meaning pressure canning is the better method.

While the boiling water bath method could be done with a big enough pot, pressure canning requires the use of a pressure canner. It is the only safe method to can low acids foods such as meats and vegetables. Since there isn’t enough acidity in these foods to kill C. botulinum spores these products must be heated to the 240 degrees F threshold. This can only be done in a pressurized environment. Again, it can’t be said enough. Low acid foods MUST be pressure canned.

Although it might seem complicated at first, canning can be quite rewarding. Not only would you get to preserve your Love & Carrots harvest, you’d also have lots of wonderful treats for the winter. Thinking of giving it a try? Try out some of the wonderful recipes below!

Pickled Carrots

Taken from Food Network

Taken from Food Network

Tomato Sauce

Taken from the Pioneer Woman

Taken from the Pioneer Woman

Strawberry Jam (And How to Can It)

Taken from Taste of Home

Taken from Taste of Home

Canned Blueberry Jam

Taken from Taste of Home

Taken from Taste of Home

Pickled Peppers

Canned Green Beans

Contributed by Ian Whittington

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Guest Blogger: Joanne Schneider from…

Meredith : September 9, 2014 7:21 pm : Blog

Jo_Purple&GreenLogo

The recipes I’ve provided today highlight cabbage and tomatoes, two delicious vegetables which happen to not only be some of my favorites, but are also incredibly rich in nutrients and crucial to promoting a healthy lifestyle!

In addition to its piquant flavor and delightful crunch, cabbage is also a key player in cancer prevention, thanks to its high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and glucosinolates (a class of organic compounds found largely in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and, of course, cabbage). Nearly 500 independent studies have examined cabbage’s role in cancer prevention, and indicated effectiveness in reducing rates of a number of different cancers, including bladder, breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Some ongoing research has even looked into cabbage’s suitability as an component of holistic cancer treatment.

Cabbage also has a well-documented ability to aid in the healing of peptic ulcers (ulcers found in the stomach), and its high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants, and amino acids all help to promote a strong and healthy gastrointestinal tract. Compounds derived from glucosinolates can also help regulate healthy bacterial populations inside the gut, keeping them within manageable levels. And as if that isn’t enough, research has consistently demonstrated that cabbage’s fibrous proteins can directly help reduce cholesterol! Steamed cabbage has proven especially effective in this regard.

And what about tomatoes? Readers of my blog will know that I am a huge advocate for tomatoes: Not only are they incredibly versatile and completely scrumptious—I eat fresh cherry tomatoes the way some people eat candy!—but they are incredibly easy to cultivate, and are a rewarding plant for new and experienced gardeners alike.

Photo taken from fitoneboise.org

Photo taken from fitoneboise.org

But that’s not all! Tomatoes are uniquely high in a broad variety of valuable nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene, and lutein. Lycopene has been linked to a reduction in rates of prostate cancer, and also benefits heart health, blood pressure, and many other parts of the body. Folic acid is incredibly beneficial: Apart from its well-documented value to women preparing for or experiencing pregnancy, folic acid plays a role in the prevention of colon cancer, and can also help prevent stomach and pancreatic cancer. Tomatoes are also a rich source of vitamins A and C; A is crucial to both the immune system and maintaining strong eyesight, and C is an antioxidant particularly useful in fighting off free radicals—which both helps reduce the risk of many cancers and mitigate the effects of aging.

So, you can see why I’m such a fan! As far as nutrition and general health go, cabbage and tomatoes both offer a huge bang for your buck. I hope this article inspires you to try my recipes, and to increase the amount of cabbage and tomatoes in your diet! Once you start, you won’t want to look back.

Red Cabbage, Apple, and Carrot Coleslaw 

Photo taken from karistaskitchen.com

Photo taken from karistaskitchen.com

INGREDIENTS

• 3 cups of red cabbage, thinly sliced

• 6 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

• 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

• ¼ cup of sesame seeds

• 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

• ¼ cup of raw apple cider vinegar

• ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Handful of pecan nuts for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Use a knife or food processor to chop the cabbage, carrots, and apple julienne-style.

Throw your sesame seeds in raw (I like using both black and white sesame seeds for contrast) or toast them lightly in a frying pan.

Toss julienned cabbage, carrots, apple, and sesame seeds together.

For the dressing, combine the ginger, vinegar, and oil and stir with a spoon or whisk.

Add dressing to the cabbage, carrots, and apples evenly.

Top with more sesame seeds (a fantastic source of Calcium!).

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready.

 

Easy Roasted Cabbage 

Photo taken from kalynskitchen.com

Photo taken from kalynskitchen.com

INGREDIENTS

• 1 green cabbage

• Olive oil

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut cabbage into four to eight equal wedges (depending on the size of the cabbage).

Spread the wedges on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Lightly salt and pepper to taste.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until tender and starting to turn slightly golden brown.

Serve warm with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice.

 

Super Easy Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad 

Photo taken from food.com

Photo taken from food.com

INGREDIENTS

• 2 lb. of tomatoes (roughly 3 large), chopped

• 4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

• 1 handful of basil, washed and chopped

• Olive oil and high-quality balsamic vinegar (I use Robbins Family Farm—aged 18 years for a real treat!)

• Salt and pepper to taste

Note: In this recipe, you can use any kind of tomato as long as it’s ripe and firm. Grape tomatoes, baby tomatoes, large yellow and red tomatoes—anything will work! (If using large tomatoes, discard the seeds after chopping.)

DIRECTIONS

Combine first three ingredients and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Mix well.

Lightly add salt and pepper to taste.

Let the salad marinate for an hour and serve at room temperature.

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