Gardening in the north means a shorter growing season and a later harvest than in the rest of the country, but many crops are ready to pick by mid-summer. Depending on the weather and your specific location, the strawberry crop that begins in June is followed by apples, blueberries, cherries, peaches, raspberries, and other fruits in July. Plums, pluots, and nectarines ripen in August.
In the vegetable patch, July brings a harvest of cucumbers, eggplants, beans, peas, Kohlrabi, melons, onions, potatoes, summer squash, and zucchini.
Mid-summer is also prime-time for mints, thyme, oregano, parsley, and other herbs. To preserve their flavor and oils, harvest before they flower and set seeds. Gather the herbs after the morning dew dries from their leaves, but before the heat of the day sets in.
Freezing is an easy way to save herbs. Rinse the leaves, shake them dry, and chop them coarsely. Then freeze them in ice cube trays filled with water. Later, pop out the frozen cubes and store them in freezer bags. Don’t have ice cube trays? Freeze the chopped herbs on a cookie sheet, bag them, and return them to the freezer.
Herbs can also be air dried. Again, start by rinsing them. Then spread them in a single layer to dry on paper towels. Tie them into loose bundles, and hang them upside down in a warm, dry spot with good air circulation.
If you’re going to freeze vegetables, pick your produce at its peak. Most will need blanching in boiling water or steam, and some require pre-cooking. Check with your local extension service office for details, or visit the USDA Web site for more information. Be sure to label your freezer bags or containers with the date; most frozen veggies stored at 0 degrees F should be used within 12 to 18 months.
Crystal, a Home Depot Muddy Boots reporter in New York, says, “Our area is very agricultural and a lot of people thrive and depend on what they grow in the spring and summer months. The usual variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant are among our highest yielding vegetables.
“Most people freeze their vegetables using FoodSavers (vacuum sealers) or freezer bags and containers. I like to use a dehydrator for sliced zucchini and yellow squash as they are great in stews and soups for a slow cooker in the winter. Strawberries are probably our biggest yielding fruit here, whether folks grow their own or visit farms to pick. Many use canners to make preserves, or freeze the berries whole to be used at a later time.”
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