August 17, 2020
Late August is a time of overgrowth and spent plants. The harvest is coming in and things must be cooked, eaten or persevered. It is a time of year we enjoy because as the end of summer approaches we are ready for the change. We are tired from hours of weeding and watering in the heat and are looking forward to cooler weather. We have indulged in the bounty of tomatoes, peppers and zucchini. I especially, have adored being able to cut bunches of fresh herbs daily. Sweet melons and peaches have given us wonderful desserts throughout the season. But now, as plant production slows, what do we do with the excess? For me, it is time to start air drying and flash freezing!
Herbs are an addiction of mine and I love to make the tastes and scents last as long as possible. So, if you come around the homestead this time of year you will see tied bunches of herbs hanging all about the place. The ceiling of the potting shed holds a drying grid for rosemary, marjoram, lavender and chamomile. The kitchen contains mason jars of cut mints drying on the window sill and the uplifting fragrance of spearmint, peppermint and chocolate mint fills the room. Even our chickens get bundles hung in their coop. Oregano and lemon verbena especially are wonderful for the coop because they smell delightful and the girls love to pick at them. The herbs are healthy for them to eat and aid in their digestion.
Once dried the herbs last throughout the winter and have multiple uses. All our cooking herbs are jarred and used both at home and in the catering kitchen. The lavenders and mints make great wreaths and potpourri. Small jars of dried thymes and tarragons make lovely gifts. And the chamomile and verbenas make delicious teas. We even mix numerous herbs into the winter chicken feed to strengthen their immune systems.
The flash freezing begins now too. Blueberries and strawberries are rinsed picked over and laid out on baking sheets. Thirty minutes in the freezer and they are ready. I store ours in quart size bags. The quick freeze lets them remain individual instead of clumping up together so it is easy to remove just the amount you need at any time. This year I will be trying this method with raspberries (will let you know how they hold up). Another great summer treat to freeze is corn. Just a quick blanching followed by removal of the kernels and then flash freeze and bag. This, in particular, is a favorite addition to our winter chowders and stews. Peas are exceptional to store this way if you have a surplus but we NEVER do! String beans and peppers freeze beautifully as well.
So, I hope as summer dwindles you take some time to save up a bit of its deliciousness for colder days. But if time gets away from you and the opportunity is missed, don't worry. Give us a ring in the Green Cart Kitchen and we will happily cook up some tasty summer goodness in the middle of winter for you!