In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Too much of everything? Preserve it!
Preserving the Garden's Excess
Has your garden outproduced itself? Is it continuing to ripen veggies you've already grown tired of? Instead of leaving it on the vine to shrivel and dry up, preserve it! In winter, you'll thank yourself!
Excess vine-ripened tomatoes are easily frozen for winter use. After washing them, cut out the core, cut them into quarters, and place them on a cookie sheet so the pieces don't touch. When they're frozen, transfer them to bags or containers to use as desired. The peel will slip off easily when the tomato pieces begin to thaw.
Drying is an excellent choice for preserving fruit that is not very sweet or not quite ripe, as the sugar intensifies during drying. (Very sweet fruit sometimes dries with an unpleasantly strong molasses flavor.) When harvesting, leave the stems on so there are no open wounds. Wash and separate the individual fruits. Spoiled or critter-munched spots can be cut out and discarded. Grapes require gentle handling of the whole bunches. Stone fruit like peaches and plums and nectarines should be washed and cut in half or sliced with the pit removed. Tomatoes can be cut into halves or quarters.
Place the fruit pieces on a rack in the sun, and cover them with a double layer of cheesecloth for protection from birds and insects. Give special care to separating individual grapes so no moisture remains between them to mold overnight. Be sure the fruit is dried in air that's at least 95 degrees, to prevent fungus from developing.
Turn the fruit pieces and grape bunches every day until they have dried to the extent you prefer. Whole trays full of fruit can be turned at one time by placing a second rack on top of the fruit and then flipping the "sandwich" over.
If the fruit dries too much, the pieces can be softened somewhat by sprinkling them lightly with water and separating them on a rack placed indoors for a day.
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