What to Do With Your Extra Garden Vegetables

Renee Valdes
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Cherry Tomatoes

When you want to preserve the goodness of your extra garden vegetables without the hassle of long hours of processing, try small batch freezing and canning.

Using simple recipes, you can batch small quantities of sauces, salsas and casseroles, and then store them in the freezer.

Another small batch method involves quickly blanching and freezing your fresh vegetables in storage bags or containers. Blanching stops enzymatic activity that decays vegetables and herbs even when in the freezer. 

Just think of the possibilities. Your freshly grown tomatoes can morph into fresh salsa, pasta sauce, or puree for a zesty soup. Zucchini can be blanched and frozen for later meals.

Tomato Salsa

Small batch canning is another way to help you get the fresh taste of your garden preserved beyond the growing season. Here are a few supplies you’ll need for small batch canning, and how-to info on the canning process.

Supplies:

Freezing vegetables can be tricky. Check out our quick and easy tips on freezing fresh tomatoes, squash, green beans and bell peppers.

TIPS for Freezing your fresh harvest:

  • Tomatoes: Wash and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins. The skins peel off easily and then you can leave them whole or cut into pieces before putting in freezer. Store for up to three months.
  • Yellow squash: Yellow squash does not freeze well. Best to prepare casseroles with this star ingredient and then freeze for up to three months.
  • Zucchini squash: Zucchini tastes amazing when grated and stored in the freezer. Just be sure to pick zucchini when it’s bigger and more mature. Zucchini needs blanching for three minutes, then cool it quickly with ice and drain. It can also be steamed for two minutes before storing in the freezer. Zucchini will stay fresh there for up to eight months.
  • Green beans: After washing and trimming, dip beans in a three-minute boiling water bath to blanch. Follow with a quick ice bath, then pat dry and freeze. Store for up to eight months.
  • Bell peppers: No blanching necessary unless you’re using in a casserole. Just wash, remove stem and seeds, and then chop the peppers in strips or small pieces. Spread out on a baking sheet and freeze for an hour. Then remove from sheet and store away portions. Bell peppers will keep in the freezer for up to three months. 

Garden Herbs

You can also preserve your herbs. Among the easiest ways to savor the flavor is by freezing your herbs in ice cube trays filled with olive oil. Be sure to wash and pat dry thoroughly. When you’re ready to use them in recipes, just drop the frozen herb cubes into soups or sauces, or sauté with your favorite vegetables, poultry, pork or beef. 

Frozen Herbs in Olive Oil

Basil can also be made into small batches of pesto. Just imagine a heaping bowl of pesto pasta or pesto spread on a slice of toasted baguette. Pesto can be kept frozen for up to several months and it will taste fresh picked on first bite. 

Small Batch Canning Basil Pesto

PESTO RECIPE

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Yield: Makes 1 pint jar

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 4 cups of lightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Coarse salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden or fragrant, tossing once, for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil; add basil and submerge with a spoon. Immediately drain in a colander. Rinse with cold water, then pat basil completely dry.
  3. Place ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Use immediately or freeze.

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