In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2003
Regional Report

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1097

Harvest squash as soon as it reaches perfection, not a moment later!

Preserving Tips

Tomatoes
Freeze whole tomatoes for cooking later. After slight thawing, cut out the core, and squeeze from the blossom end. The pulp will emerge easily and can be used in any recipe.

Quick, thick tomato sauce can be achieved with little cooking. Puree whole, unpeeled tomatoes, and freeze the pulp in a narrow-topped container, such as a plastic water jug. As it freezes, the clear liquid in the juice will separate and rise to the top of the container. When you're ready to make the sauce, remove the cap and turn the container upside down in a bowl to defrost. The clear liquid will melt before the pulp does, and the longer you allow the liquid to drain, the thicker the sauce remaining in the jug will get. Use this nutrient-rich clear liquid as a soup base.

Drying Fruit
Make a "sandwich" rack for drying fruit outdoors. Place a second rack on top of the fruit, and flip the "sandwich" each time the fruit needs to be turned. Use a single or double layer of cheesecloth to separate the fruit from the rack.

Metal cans and aluminum pie pans speed ripening and sweetening of melons by concentrating the sun's warmth and transferring it to the melons. The reflected heat and light will help them ripen evenly and sooner than when they are shaded by foliage. Keeping melons off the damp soil will lessen damage from soil-borne pests and diseases.

Drying Herbs
Dry and store whole herb plants by using drawstring net bags from store-bought apples, onions, and potatoes. Draw the string closed, and hang the bags on hooks. The netting allows air circulation but contains most dry crumbled pieces in case the bag is bumped.

Preserving Peppers
Preserve peppers as soon as they're harvested. Quick-freeze them by slicing or dicing the whole peppers, spreading the pieces on a cookie sheet, and freezing them. Pack the frozen pieces into larger containers, and use the pieces as desired. They will lose their crispness when they've thawed, but they're fine for recipes to be cooked.

To dry chili peppers, pick them when they're deep red, and hang them in a sunny place until they're brittle. To dry other types of peppers, cut the larger ones in half or into pieces, or slit smaller-sized whole ones. Dry them until they're brittle. Store dried peppers in moisture- and vapor-proof containers in a cool, dry, dark place.


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