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On our Food Security Page, you will find everything from recipe ideas to growing tips and advice to ways to address food insecurity.

Eating Well Through the Winter


Preserve your own food

It bothered me all winter last year that the least expensive way to purchase a variety of vegetables was to purchase frozen mixed - in plastic bags.  When you think about it, if I bought one bag per week, that is a lot of extra plastic in the landfill.  While we at Earthmama are still looking for ways to start up a household plastic film recycling program, I knew I had to do better this year.  That's when I hit upon the idea of preserving my own - straight from the garden.

Step 1


Getting Started

My green beans are just starting to produce, and I've got a few handfuls of snow peas and snap peas coming ready each day.  Armed with my bowl, I went out to the garden and harvested what was ready of each, which the internet tells me is best done first thing in the morning.  

 


Getting Ready to Blanch

After rinsing my vegetables, I put on a small pot of water to boil and set a bowl of ice water aside.  Then, I separated out my green beans, cut off the ends, and cut them into one inch pieces.

 


Boil for Three Minutes

Sometimes people think blanching is scary or confusing.  I know because I used to be one of them, but it turns out it wasn't.  All you do is drop your vegetables into the boiling water for a few minutes.  This kills any bacteria and stops the enzyme that would otherwise continue to be produced in the vegetable, harming the quality of their freshness and taste when frozen.


Cooling Down

Next it was into the ice water bath.  Using a slotted spoon, I scooped the green beans out of the pot and immersed them in my bowl of cold water, immediately plunging my peas and snow peas into the pot which I then switched off to conserve elecrticity. The idea is to cool the blanched produce right away - blanching isn't cooking, and the peas don't require that long. 


Into the Freezer

After draining my vegetables, I arranged them in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and they went into the freezer - all told, about ten minutes after I picked them.  About two hours later I shook them into a bin with a lid, leaving plenty of room for my next batch.  Freezing them this way first means you end up with a nice loose mixture you can just grab a handfull from to throw in a stir fry or soup. You can skip this step, but you'll end up with a solid block of vegetables all frozen together, very difficult to work with.


Conserving the Resources

I was left with an inch or two of green-tinged water in my pot. This liquid is brimming with nutrients from my vegetables and I didn't want to waste it.  Once it cooled, I used it to water my houseplants to replace some of the vitamins in the soil.  We've had a ton of rain here so my rain barrel is full, but if it wasn't I could have poured it into there or directly onto a troubled plant in my garden that needed a lift.  I also kept the parchment paper that I lined my tray with, reserving for next time I add a batch to my frozen mix. I did use about five minutes of hydro to boil my water, but compared with the resource conservation of not having to purchase frozen vegetables in plastic - shipped from who knows where - I think it's a savings. 


Next Steps

As my garden matures, I plan to add to my mixture.  I'll preserve the rest of my green beans and peas and follow a similar method with my carrots, which I will julienne just the way my family likes them and add them.  My red peppers will go in as well, and anything else I can think of, until hopefully I'm left with a nice big bin in my freezer of frozen mixed vegetables ready to dip into all winter. The point of all this?  You can live more green-friendly.  For the cost of a few packs of seeds - (thanks Hawthorn Farm for the quality stock!!) and a little hard work, you can feed your family fresh, local, organic vegetables year round, saving money and plastic waste in the process. 

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