Keepin’ up with Fresh Foods

In my commitment to eating as many fresh veggies as possible, I have run into a snag. That is that many times I do not eat up the veggies before they begin to spoil. I have a compost bucket, but these veggies still cost money. Money that is very tight right now. So I want to make sure I’m buying enough, but not too much and that I use it up before it goes bad.

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Chinese cabbage and green beans fermenting

 I have not tried fermenting fruits yet, but I have had great results with veggies. So much so that I am now fermenting veggies instead of canning them. The fermentation process preserves many more of the nutrients than heat sealing them in a canning jar, tomatoes excepted, as they are more nutritious cooked.

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Tomatoes from an Amish couple at the farmer’s market. Made canned tomato sauce.

Fermenting veggies is easy. I boil a quart of water, add 3 tablespoons of sea salt and stir to dissolve. After this has cooled, I add veggies and place a ziplock bag of brine (the same salt water) on top, which seals out air. It needs to be checked daily for any slime or mold. Sometimes the ziplock needs to be wiped off or refilled. When the contents of the jar are done fermenting after a few weeks, I transfer them to smaller jars with tight fitting lids and store in cool cupboards. Always check for signs of spoilage before using home preserved (or even store bought) items.

Fermenting is great for most veggies. Cabbage (think sauerkraut), beets, green beans, summer squash, corn, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and so many more veggies are great fermented.

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Did you know yogurt is fermented milk?

For leafy greens, though, eating fresh is about the only option. If my greens are a little wilty, I soak them in a tub of cool water for several hours and return them to the fridge. This usually crisps them up for a few more days until we can get them eaten. If your greens are not lettuce, but collards, beet greens, cabbage or other sturdy greens, they can be stir fried in a little oil or bacon fat and eaten hot. This is very yummy and we try to have fried greens on a regular basis. As far as the lettuces, though, I’m afraid if they are no longer appealing, the only alternative is the compost bin. Unless you have farm critters. Chickens, pigs and the like love scraps.

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Squash is another veggie that can easily become overwhelming. As a starchy veg, our bodies don’t need as much of it as they do the lighter, leafy veggies. Squash is really satisfying in the cold weather, however. Hard squashes, such as pumpkin, acorn, butternut and the like can be stored in a cool basement or a corner of the kitchen that stays cool. Check weekly for soft spots or spoilage and keep them dry. They can also be cooked until soft and canned for making pies and puddings later. I don’t like freezing any kind of squash unless it is shredded, such as for zucchini bread, because it tends to come out of the freezer mushy and tasteless. For summer squash I like fermenting or drying. For fermenting, cut into spears, slices or chunks. For drying, thin slices are best. These can be salted or seasoned before drying, for snack chips, or dried plain, to be added to winter soups and stews.

 I hope this has given you a few new ideas or reminded you of some old ways to keep up with your harvest of fresh foods and make good use of them before they spoil. I try to keep my cooking and preserving simple, so no complicated recipes here. Got no time for that. But you can preserve healthy foods quickly and easily, without spending all day in the kitchen. It just takes some forethought and getting into the habit.

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