Enjoying the Harvest--In December

July and August are the peak months of the Intervale's summer share season. Each week there is something new maturing and available for selection. The colors are varied, the flavors are rich, and the harvest is bountiful.

Try not to be overwhelmed as you take your riches home each week!  If you are new to the farm, you might be frantic about using everything before it spoils. If you are a long-time member, no doubt you've counseled someone on how to cope.

Now is the time to explore the world of "putting up." For people of a certain age, summer and fall preserving (canning, salting, drying, or freezing) was a regular activity. Who remembers Victory Gardens? The original Ball canning book (with instructions for canning wild game) was distributed widely in the 1940's and 50's and families stretched their food dollars by preserving their bounty for leaner months.

The first preserving book I owned was the (perhaps classic) Putting Food By (Hertzberg, 1973) and it remains on my bookshelf with my many cookbooks. It even includes drawings and explanations for cold storage, root cellars, and the like. I remember storing 50 lb. bags of onions and potatoes, hubbard squash, and other roots in the cold (cellar) bulkhead of my childhood home. With access to root veggies in a winter CSA, processing large quantities of roots may no longer be necessary; concentrate on the more delicate selections from summer!

There are many options for preserving the harvest. (And in fact, check out the ideas in The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest (Costenbader, 1997.) You can dehydrate, freeze, pressure can, or ferment. You can start simply and easily by making pesto and freezing it for use on winter roasted potatoes, baked fish, or pasta. Dehydrate additional herbs such as parsley, basil, oregano to use in your homemade tomato sauce. (Pesto can be made with any herb, by the way. I usually just process the herbs with a touch of olive oil and freeze...how I'll decide to use it will come much later.)

Many people make pickles...out of anything!  Of course you can use cucumbers for many varieties, but don't forget dilly beans, pickled daikon, summer squash. I've used leftover dill brine to pickle the new carrots and they are delightful in a winter salad.

Try roasting and then freezing, particularly with the colorful peppers.  With eggplant, onions, and peppers you can roast or make a stew, freeze it to use as a base for a curry, pasta sauce, Greek casserole. I season when I thaw so I am not limited in what I'll cook.

Canning used to frighten me. I was always afraid of the old fashioned rubber rings and glass lids to the canning jars. Now with metal screw on rings, metal lids, and excellent instructions, any one can....can.  We make tomato sauce, salsa, plain tomatoes for both our own use and for gifts. (Imagine getting a gift bag at a holiday with a jar of pickles, a jar of relish, salsa, and maybe a fruit butter!) Your friends and family will think you are quite accomplished when they see the results of your efforts. Barter with a neighbor...swap your pickles for their salsa.

You can freeze tomatoes easily if you have the space. I have had good luck removing the tiniest bit of the core necessary and then freezing in zipper bags, whole. When you are ready to use, run the frozen tomato under warm water and the skin falls off. Then I toss the tomato into soup, sauce, or stew and have the flavor of July in January.

In short, don't feel you can't use all the food from your share and don't feel you have to waste anything. ICF farmers and staff are all excellent and creative cooks and are always happy to make suggestions for using a crop. Also don't be afraid to try a new technique such as fermenting (cole slaw? kimchi? )  There are many resources available without spending a lot of time hunting.  Then let us know what you've "put up" and send pictures of your efforts!