It just keeps giving! On extending the life of the garden—

It’s going to freeze any night now, and I’m leaving town, so we undertook a family project today  to bring  in most of the remaining garden crops.   Since I quit  putting up  sugar-added, processed food in jars years ago, I’ve learned new ideas to preserve nutritional value in my garden’s yield.   Here’s how the garden will “keep on giving” its raw food in the next few months, based on what we did today:

1.   We made sauerkraut, one of  Libby’s favorite  foods.   It’s raw AND preserved for the winter, and it provides good lactic acid and healthy cultures your body needs to aid digestion, when used as a condiment or side dish at dinner.   Dennis cut all the last heads of cabbage out, and shredded them in the food processor.   I banged on  the shredded cabbage  with a metal ladle for a while (couldn’t find anything better to use) to release the juices.   I then packed  it tightly in  quart jars.   Then I  added to  12 cups of water (for my six quarts),    6 Tbsp.  Original Himalayan Crystal Salt,  6 Tbsp.  whey (from my kefir), 4 Tbsp. whole mustard seed, and  1 Tbsp. cumin  (those last two ingredients are optional, and if you don’t have whey, just double the salt).   I stirred  it well and poured it over each of the  6 quarts of cabbage until covered.   I put on lids tightly (used ones are fine—they don’t need to seal) and  put them in my pantry for a few days.    I will transfer them to the basement cold storage next week (but anywhere dark is fine).   It will keep all year.

2.   Emma and Cade cut down all the chard, washed it, cut it in thirds,  bagged it in gallon freezer bags, and put it in the freezer.   It’s many weeks’ worth of green smoothie ingredients.   You can’t preserve greens for other uses, but who cares if wilted, formerly frozen greens go in your green smoothie where it gets all blended up anyway.

3.   I made 3/4 gallon of nutritious pesto sauce with spinach and basil from the garden (I would HATE to see the basil go to waste—see my recipe collection).   I put enough for individual family dinners in containers and stuck them in the freezer.

4.    The kids  brought in all the bell peppers—red, yellow, and green—as well as jalapenos and Anaheims, and I chopped and bagged them in sandwich bags to  add  to big pots of  vegetarian chili (see my recipe collection) this winter.

5.   Cade pulled most of the beets—some as big as softballs!—and  washed/bagged/froze  the greens for use in green smoothies.   I peeled the beets and froze chunks for my Hot-Pink Breakfast Smoothie and Beet Cake (see my recipe collection).   I think I have enough to last  the year in my freezer.

6.   Tennyson and Libby picked all the green tomatoes and laid them on newspapers in the basement.   Once we had fresh tomatoes all the way until Christmas using this method of slow-ripening green tomatoes!   I chopped some tomatoes and froze them in small bags in the freezer, too, for soups and chili when it’s cold.

7.    I shredded all the zucchini (I hate to see it go to waste—those plants are  SO prolific).   We put them in the freezer in quart-size bags, to make zucchini bread and zucchini fritters (recipes in my Sept. blog) and zucchini pitas (in my recipe collection).

I didn’t have much corn this year, but if I did, I’d cut corn off the cobs and freeze the corn for our favorite black bean/corn/red pepper salad (in my recipe collection).   I planted some chard and spinach a few weeks ago, and though it’s much too small to harvest now, it will survive the frost and just explode in early spring!   At that same time, I’ll be planting, so I have plenty of greens from April through June—and chard will take us all through the summer and fall (it doesn’t bolt like spinach).

My husband is building me some winter grow boxes so I can experiment with maiche and other cold-weather greens growing throughout the snowy, cold winter.

So it was a productive day—the kids learning a work ethic and participating in “the law of the harvest.”   And we have lots of food for the winter.

4 thoughts on “It just keeps giving! On extending the life of the garden—

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  1. Hi, Robyn’s husband here. According to my Aunt, my grandfather used to pull his tomato plants in the late fall with all the green tomatoes still on the plant and hang them up in the garage, or in the basement and wait for the tomatoes to ripen. We have never tried this, but I bet it would work.

    I am sad to admit that I dug up some of the greens Robyn planted for next spring. Next time I will listen better. I hope the winter boxes work. I’m sure Robyn will keep you posted.

  2. Robyn:

    Do you blanch the corn after cutting it off the cob or do you just freeze it the way it is?

    I have a great deal of corn planted this year. I would have planted more but didn’t have time to get it planted. I’m going to dry some for us and for the chickens. It sure would be easier to just cut and freeze instead of cut, blanch, and freeze. I guess I thought you had to blanch it to set the milk.

    You may know this but Bountiful Gardens has a great deal of greens and lettuces, etc that will overwinter in the garden. They sell only nonhybrid, open pollinated seed. I highly recommend them. I’ve already bought wheat, oat, and buckwheat seeds from them. And fava beans, a herbal tea collection, and some pepper seeds. I plan to get my fall order in here pretty soon. The fall garden is going in in August.

    By the way, your dh is right about tomatoes. You can also dry beans this way. That’s what they did in the old days. I learned a lot of great things from reading “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They’d pull up the bean plants and place the roots between two boards. Then they’d hang the beans upside down and let them dry. This way they could get other work done and get the beans shelled during the winter when they had more time. This is what I plan to do next year when I grow beans.


  3. I use corn raw, have never blanched it. I use it raw in my recipes, for instance, the cilantro-corn chips (yum!) in Ch. 7 of 12 Steps–it’s a really nutritious, raw chip made in the dehydrator that we use for guacamole, hummus, baba ganoush, whatever.

    You know lots about gardening, very cool! Keep teaching me stuff so I can make Ch. 5 the very best it can be before it goes to press at the end of the year.


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