Harvest and preserve your abundanceJul 31, 2019 09:32AM ● By Paige Slaughter
Gardens extend beyond the confines of our backyards. They impact our culinary lives, delight lucky neighbors who get our extra bounties and infuse our personal lives with a fresh perspective. If we’re open, our gardens can not only connect us to the Earth, but to every living thing on it.
Maybe this month you’re beginning to enjoy the overflowing abundance that gardens provide. Or, if you’re at a slightly higher elevation, maybe your crops are just starting to realize it’s summer.
Either way, here are a few ways to enjoy the abundance that summer has to offer.
This time of year, nothing beats locally grown produce like a crunchy sweet pepper, a quality heirloom tomato, or a tree-ripened Palisade peach.
Locally grown produce is harvested at the peak of its growing season, which makes it both tastier and healthier than what you’ll find in grocery stores.
Fresh, local and in season: These are three ingredients for great eating and whole body-mind wellness. Fresh, locally grown seasonal produce makes superior food medicine. Here’s how to make the most of it.
• Support local growers by visiting farmers' markets.
Talk to different vendors to learn about how they’re growing their food and what makes them special. Some casual digging might lead you to discover someone who’s putting your values into practice.
• Reap (and share) your bounty!
For us gardeners, mid-summer is an exciting time! We get to reap the fruits of our labor, brag to our friends about all we’ve grown, swap stories and produce with other garden dwellers, and share bountiful harvests with our loved ones.
• Preserve the harvest to enjoy all year long.
For me, taste and nutrition are reason enough to preserve local produce while it’s in season. Caring for our planet and supporting the local economy are also huge factors, each helping to create and preserve an abundant world for all people. But there’s another reason (among many more) to participate in the abundance of our local growing season: money in our pockets.
It’s cost-effective to buy fruits and vegetables while they’re in season. An abundant supply of produce, combined with the fact that food doesn’t have to travel as far to get to consumers, often makes for lower-priced, higher quality goods. When you’re preserving, you can even ask farmers for discounted “seconds”—fruits with minor imperfections. Use this opportunity to buy an abundance of fresh, local, seasonal produce, which once preserved, can last through the winter!
• Drying and dehydrating:
Drying herbs, fruits and vegetables is easy and effective. Air dry tender herbs by bundling and hanging them upside down in a cool, dark place with a bit of airflow. You can also spread a thin layer of herbs, edible flowers or chili peppers in a basket and lay a cheesecloth over top to keep dust away. Slice fruits and veggies, and dry in a dehydrator. Once the moisture is gone, you can store dried produce in jars to use in soups and other cooked dishes through the seasons.
While the process varies for different items, you only need a few tools and a recipe to get started. This is one of the more time-consuming preservation techniques, so choose wisely. I like to save my canning efforts for tomatoes and peaches. I blend all my tomatoes into a sauce, and roast peach halves in the oven for winter pies.
Let food and liquid sit in a jar on the counter, and wait. Fermentation is a natural process that food undergoes in certain conditions, and our ancestors have been doing it for a long time. There are many different types of fermentation, leading to fantastic eats like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, wines and spirits. Plus, fermented products are full of probiotics that benefit your gut. Follow the recipe and you’ll find it’s not as daunting as it sounds.
Vinegar is a natural preservative used to pickle peppers, cucumbers and more. I love dicing peppers and pickling them with garlic, salt and herbs to use on sandwiches year-round.
• Share the love
Whether it’s with neighbors, friends, family, or community members who are struggling, giving home-grown produce is deeply rewarding. Visit www.growanotherrow.org to learn more about how you can participate in sharing the abundance.
Whichever preservation methods you choose to explore, be sure to do some research beforehand. Resist the urge to be scared by horror stories, and you may even discover a new favorite food and pastime all at once!
As we spend less time working in the garden this month and more time harvesting and enjoying, it’s a wonderful time of year to share that abundance beyond the boundaries of our gardens. This August, let’s extend beyond the corners of our yards into communities, global ecosystems, and prosperous ways of thinking.
See last month’s column online at www.BeaconSeniorNews.com and follow the same harvest, thinning and succession planting routine. We’re filling in gaps in the garden with radishes and turnips this month. If you still have more space, you can seed brassicas like broccoli and cabbage.