We had our first real freeze last night, so I have spent the last few days harvesting the remaining crops from our garden and preserving everything. I thought I was almost finished on Saturday, but then on Sunday a friend told me about a field just down the road from our house where the huge local organic farm had put up a “help yourself” sign after the field got lightly frosted. I guess they decided it wasn’t worth harvesting, even though there was still a ton of good produce out there. I went on Sunday afternoon and filled four reusable shopping bags with tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli. Then I went back on Monday with the boys (baby in the Moby Wrap, three-year-old helping me find veggies) and filled another four bags. This is part of the haul:
I was up until midnight on Sunday blanching and freezing broccoli:
This was especially awesome because we didn’t grow any broccoli this year in our garden. But now I have 17 quarts of perfect little broccoli florets in the freezer. Did I mention that the farm is organic?!
I also ended up with about 12 quarts of roasted tomatoes and tons of frozen pepper chunks. I’ve stopped keeping track, and I’m still freezing peppers since I can only do two baking sheets at a time. I think I still have about 30 peppers in a bag on the counter waiting to be frozen or roasted, but all the rest of the gleaning haul is in the freezer.
I’ve had several readers who want to see pictures of our preserved harvest. Here are the canned jars of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes:
Here’s the freezer:
And the door of the freezer:
The freezer door has one bottom shelf that didn’t fit in the picture – it’s got another seven quarts of roasted tomatoes on it. The ziplock bags are all full of greens (chard and turnip), peppers, onions, and pumpkin. The main part of the freezer also has some of our Costco stash – lots of frozen berries and cherries – but is mostly stuff from our garden. I’ve lost track of how many quart bags of greens I have now, but I’m guessing it’s somewhere around 60 or 70. We got our cold frame in place recently over the garden bed that still has lots of greens in it, so we’re hoping to extend the growing season for greens for another month or two, and then we’ll rely on the frozen greens for the coldest part of the winter. The top two shelves in the freezer still have some room on them, but I’m hoping that they will be mostly filled by the end of the day today. My plan is to finish chopping and freezing most of the peppers, and to harvest and freeze the rest of the chard that isn’t under the cold frame in the garden.
In addition to all the canned/frozen stuff, we also have a few boxes of potatoes and onions that we dug out of the garden recently:
I only bought one bag of seed potatoes last spring. But I had a bag of potatoes that I had forgotten about in the pantry and they were all wrinkled and covered in sprouts when I found them. It was planting time, so I just chopped them up and stuck them in a garden bed. Midway through the summer, I thought that our potato crop hadn’t amounted to anything, because all of the plants died by the end of July. But then we dug into one of the beds (to plant something else) and the first shovel full of dirt had four potatoes in it. We ended up with three beds full of perfect potatoes – not bad!
Whew! I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent preserving food in the last few days, but I can say that I’m glad garden season is just about finished for another year. We love it, but it’s a lot of work. By early spring next year, I’ll be itching to get my hands in the dirt again. But right now, I’m ready to just enjoy cooking with all the food we have stashed away for the winter. I will miss plates full of freshly-sliced tomatoes just off the vine though…