Quick Farmer Tips to Preserve Your Vegetables
Have you found yourself tossing out wilted greens, squishy beets or any other vegetable that has not aged well in your refrigerator? Do you accumulate more vegetables than you can consume within their shelf life? This doesn’t need to be a problem, abundance can be a blessing! Accumulated summer crops preserved simply and timely can offer palatable refuge come the dark days of winter. Read on for simple ways to preserve your vegetables to minimize food waste!
Blanching is a quick cooking method for a whole range of fruits and vegetables. It involves boiling your desired vegetable in water for a particular time interval and then immediately submerging the vegetable in ice cold water. The ice bath is crucial to stop the cooking process, thus avoiding overly cooked vegetables. Blanching is especially useful in reducing fruit/vegetable quality loss over time. It is a typical cooking method prior to freezing, canning, or dehydrating.
This method can be used for nearly any fruit or vegetable you can think of! Here is an inexhaustible list of various blanching time intervals for some of the most popular foods: (there is a time range depending on the size of vegetables. Often it is easy to pre-process by cutting vegetables into smaller sizes.)
- Leafy Greens (cabbage, kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard, etc): 2-3 minutes
- Brassicas (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower): 3-5 minutes
- Root Vegetables (carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, radishes): 2-5 minutes
- Onions: 3-7 minutes
- Potatoes/sweet potatoes: fully cook
- Nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatillos): 2-5 minutes
- Summer squash: 2-5 minutes
- Greenbeans/peas: 2-4 minutes
Blanching at a Glance
- Blanching is a method of cooking for preservation. It generally takes about half the time you would normally boil something to be fully cooked.
- You can blanch just about anything! Including slightly wilted produce.
- Simply wash vegetables, cut into desired size (or not), boil for the correct time interval, and transfer to ice water to cool completely. After the vegetables have cooled completely, transfer to freezer bags or containers to freeze for future use!
- Use your blanched vegetables in sautes, soups, pastas, or anything you’d cook and doesn’t require the texture of a raw vegetable!
Quick pickling is the easiest way to extend the shelf life and mix up your uses of many great crops. The list of crops that make tasty pickles is nearly endless: radishes, carrots, summer squash, cucumbers, peas, beans, garlic, onions, turnips, fennel bulbs, peppers, even green tomatoes!
Below is a basic recipe for a pint of pickles, but use it as a foundation to add other spices, types of vinegar or combinations of vegetables. Quick pickles will store for months in your fridge, and the flavors will continue to develop over the first couple days.
To get started, you’ll need: vinegar, water, cane sugar, and salt.
- Lightly pack a pint jar with vegetables, sliced or whole, depending on your preferences.
- Create your brine: ½ cup vinegar, ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon cane sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir till the sugar and salt dissolve, then let cool.
- Pour the brine from step two over the vegetables in your jar, and add in any other spices you would like.
- Let pickles sit for at least an hour, the flavor will continue to get better overnight. The larger the pieces of your vegetables, the more time your pickles will need to reach peak tasty!
Dehydrating fruits and vegetables is slightly more time consuming than blanching and freezing, but can also be a simple and effective way to preserve excess foods! Dehydrated foods can be stored in airtight containers in a dry, dark and temperature consistent closet or pantry. Dehydrated food can be used as a snack (aka chips), rehydrated for meals at home or even rehydrated out on the trail when camping.
A note on rehydration: add specific dehydrated vegetables to water or soup and boil until soft. With dehydrated meals or mixes, simply add an appropriate amount of water and boil. You can also soak vegetables in room temperature water until softened and add to sautés.
To dehydrate foods, you will need either a dehydrator or an oven.
- To use a dehydrator is probably the easiest way to dehydrate foods. All you need to do is process the fruit or vegetable of your choice (wash, cut, and/or blanch), and then set out on trays to dehydrate for several hours. There are various temperature settings on dehydrators depending on the fruit or vegetable you are dehydrating. This is ideal because it can be left unattended overnight.
- Using an oven: similarly process food (see above), and turn the oven to 175 or the lowest setting. Bake food for 6-8 hours until totally dry.
- Lastly, store in airtight containers.
We hope these tips are useful for you to get the most out of your fruits and vegetables!
Source: National Center for Home Food Preservation
Written by Ariel Rittenhouse, ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch Vegetable Lead