It's that time of the year, my dear. The time where the apples start to fall from the tree, where the abundance in your garden is gaining speed and you just can't keep up. It's the time when the price of produce is at its best, and local or BC-grown produce is within reach!
The blog post today is meant to inspire you to take full advantage of Mother Nature's bounty and gifts, and to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year. Friends, it's time to put up the harvest. (In small batches. Do-able things. Easy things. Delicious things. One good thing at a time. Your future-winter-self will thank you.)
It seems the harvest this year has started a bit earlier than usual in these here prairie/foothill parts. I for one am thankful for it all, the rain, the sun, the intense heat we had earlier on in the season. My apples are ready a month early already!
I took advantage of a friend's invitation yesterday and gathered quite a few handfuls of mint from her garden in order to let them hang to dry already. I suspect my winter-tea-loving-days will be cozy and fragrant, and will remind me that heat really does happen in this part of the country, that summer was not just a figment of my imagination.
This time of year is really kind of like Christmas for me. I feel like there are gifts EVERYWHERE, and there is reason to celebrate at every corner. Taking a jaunt down to my favourite markets, ogling the non-stop growth in my little patch out back, stopping by the roadside fruit stands while driving through the Okanagan, it really seems to be a celebration of our riches. It is at this time every year for the last fourteen or so years that I have been prioritizing and making time to do a little something every day or two, in order to bottle this summer goodness for the hibernation days in the (very far) future. The price is right, the local produce is picked at its ripest peak, and the flavours seem to be the most concentrated out of any fruit or vegetable you've ever purchased.
Incidentally, that super concentrated rich flavour means the fruit/veg you hold in your hand is also at its most nutrient-dense-ness. You just won the food lottery, friend.
Today I want to send you to a few spots in this harvesting round-up. This blog post is meant to inspire you to choose a few projects to prepare, in order that your freezer, pantry or cold storage is filled up with the earth's summer treasures. The time is right, you may have some free weekend hours, the price is certainly right and cheapest it will be all year; I sense a bit of preserving in your very near future.
This time last year, I started in on a month of blog posts centering on the theme of harvesting. I spent some time every weekday of the month of August preparing some kind of harvested item and posting about it to my blog by the end of day. I am still reaping the benefits of those sessions, in fact using up dried hail-damaged greens and snipping dehydrated sliced tomatoes in to my dinner this evening.
Here's a bit of a spiel about the whole thing on day 1 of my quest last August:
Why preserve the harvest, you ask? I know what you're thinking: but Luka, there's always fresh stuff at the grocery store, year-round! I thought it was best to eat fresh in order to get the best nutrients! Well for one, the stuff I'm going to be preserving is goodies grown either in my back yard or close to home. My reason for this is that these veggies and fruit, when grown close to home, means they only have to be picked just as they are ripe; there is no need to pick them two weeks or more before ripened in order to do that job on the truck on the way to being shipped to me in Calgary. By picking at the ripest point in time from the vine, this ensures that all nutrients can develop right there on the vine as Mother Nature intended. Did you know that Vitamin C is one of the last nutrients to develop in a tomato on the vine? Why not pick at peak times then! And actually eat from my own back yard. And support a local farmer. I'd rather keep my dollars in my community than send it to someone who runs a big multi-corporation in another country, thanks very much. That way, those community dollars may also stay in my community, making it a better place to be. And really keeping the local local, if you're picking up what I'm putting down. (So many influences my parents have had on my life! So very grateful!)
I talked about dehydrating (with and without a dehydrator), freezing, saucing, preserving, fermenting, drying, canning as ways to keep that summer bounty going strong in the winter months. Once the month wrapped up, I put together a compendium in order to find the recipes that interest you a bit more easily.
You'll find dehydrated tomatoes, freezing fruit, saving pock-marked greens, drying herbs, a few fermenting projects, a canning session with my sister, easy ways to save those extra herbs. I also included a few new-to-me projects like storing garlic in honey and making my own flavoured vinegars, still one of my favourite tricks I learned last year. And seeing as I'm a tomato hound, head to the compendium to find my recipe for easy freezable pizza sauce. (Did I mention that I tend to buy 100 pounds of the stuff?)
I found a few other neat ideas you may find inspiring.
- Freezing fruits + veg (and lots of other things)
- Here's a list of fruits + veg that won't go bad as fast; might be worth stocking up
- Here's a write up on how to harvest herbs, with some great tips
- A short read on how to store onions + garlic so they last
- Why not tuck extra fruit/berries/herbs/greens in individual plastic bags in your freezer for easy smoothies?
- Say yes when your neighbour offers the extra big zucchini from her garden and make a quadruple batch of this chocolate zucchini cake to stash in the freezer
- Forage in the wilds near your house, by the river, in the gulley, and tuck that goodness in to fermented beverages or dry for tea
- You could also do like my mom does, pick berries in the wild and make pies without baking them, and stashing in the freezer for instant mid-winter pick-me-ups. (Fond memories of these pies. Magic.)
- If you are out foraging in the wild, be sure to leave some in the ground still growing for the animals and for the plant to continue to thrive, so that you can come back next year and so others can harvest too!
- Find lots of fermenting recipes under this banner
- I have a few more ideas tucked under my 'harvesting' board on Pinterest
I'd love to hear how you are going about this yourself, there are so many tricks to learn as we navigate how best to feed our families. I'm all about health, to be sure, but I'm also about making this a do-able task. Try a few here and let me know how you make out! Don't be shy, comment on this article with ways you are saving up the harvest.