In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Save some of the glory for winter enjoyment!
Storing Your Harvest
Now that we've enjoyed our first harvests of those longed-for summer delights like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and peppers, we can begin to think of how to store the burgeoning yields for winter pleasure. Here are some ideas:
1. 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 if the bag is bumped.
2. 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 large containers and use them as desired. They will lose their crispness when thawed, but they're fine for cooking.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Quick, thick tomato sauce can be made 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.
6. 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. Oven racks are ideal for big fruits like peaches and nectarines. Cake-cooling racks, with their crosshatched support wires, are better for smaller fruits like strawberries and cut-up larger fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and rhubarb.
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