What to Do With Superfluous Garden Veggies

Tips and tricks for storing all those extra tomatoes.

A high-yielding vegetable garden can be both a blessing and a curse. When nature’s bounty is too much, here are ways to store and preserve your harvest.

Crops that dry well include tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Drying can dramatically alter the flavor and texture of your crop. Begin by washing and thinly slicing your fruit or vegetable and arrange the pieces in a single layer on a baking tray. The easier method is to set your oven to its lowest temperature setting (250 degrees) and leave the trays in for several hours until the pieces have shrunk in size and are nearly crisp. Once dry, you can store the pieces in a sterile, airtight container and consume within a few weeks.
Glass jars should be used as opposed to tin cans to eliminate the risk of BPA contamination. BPA-free liners and lids should also be utilized when canning vegetables. This method applies heat to food in a closed glass home-canning jar to stop the natural spoilage that would otherwise take place and removes air from the jar to create a seal. Waterbath canning and pressure canning are two methods that can be done relatively easily at home. Tomatoes, salsas, jellies, jams, fruits, sauces, chutneys and pie fillings are ideal for preservation by canning.
Radishes, okra and cucumbers are delicious when pickled and will keep for several months. Wash and prepare veggies (don’t remove the tops too closely to the root; this can cause the color to leech out). Boil in water for 30 minutes or until the skins and tops rub off easily. Slice them and place in a sterile jar and cover in pickling vinegar. Leave them overnight and then rinse thoroughly. Finally, place in a sterile jar and cover with pickling vinegar.
When you’re freezing fruits and veggies, store in usable quantities so produce can be easily defrosted. Choose only firm, just-ripe fruit and vegetables, and freeze them as quickly as you can after harvesting. Pack in an airtight freezer bag or plastic container. Some fruits and vegetables will need blanching before freezing. This prevents a soggy, soft consistency when defrosted. Do this by plunging the fruit or vegetable into a large pan of boiling water for about one-third to one-half of the normal cooking time and then transfer to ice cold water before drying and freezing.

Keep It Fresh
While your first instinct might be to put your overabundance in the fridge to make it last until you’re ready to eat it, the average refrigerator temperature is too cold for many warm-weather crops. These tips will ensure your summer vegetables will last a little bit longer.

01. Do NOT wash vegetables until you’re ready to use them. Lingering moisture in the crevices of the vegetables can cause them to go bad more quickly. Simply brush off any dirt, and then wash well before actually preparing them for a meal.

02. Leave the stem attached. This will help seal the stem end against bacteria.

03. Put peppers, summer squash, green beans and cantaloupe in the fridge. Wrap fresh produce in a paper towel, and place in a plastic bag to enhance humidity.

04. Store tomatoes, eggplants, okra, cucumbers and watermelon in a cool place with some humidity out of direct sunlight. These guys can’t handle the chill of the fridge.