Dear Miss Floribunda,
I don’t need help gardening at the moment because I am up to my ears in tomatoes, beans, peppers, squash, greens and corn. I have mini-cherry trees full of fruit. I have so much that I don’t even mind sharing with the squirrels, birds and raccoons. I can’t share any more with neighbors because I suspect they are starting to avoid me for fear of having more produce forced upon them. I do recall that in my childhood old ladies would can things for the winter. It was hot work, and I thought it unfortunate that tasks that make you uncomfortably warm, like ironing and canning, were most necessary in the summer. I have a small freezer, but am not sure what to freeze. What do other gardeners around here do to preserve summer bounty so as to enjoy it in the winter?
Overwhelmed on Oglethorpe Street
I checked with my friends Ivan and Capability Green Grozni, who are as knowledgeable about cooking as they are about gardening. They tell me that green beans, lima beans and greens (especially spinach) freeze quite well. Tomatoes, peppers and squash can be frozen but it changes their texture. They are fine in soups, however, and the tomatoes and peppers can be made into salsa at a cooler time of year.
Aunt Sioux reports success roasting sweet peppers before freezing them. She strings up her little hot peppers to dry and hangs them from the rafters in her basement. My neighbor Herr Huber Krumelschicht dug himself a root cellar, and swears by it for storing onions, winter squash, cabbages, beets, potatoes, turnips and carrots through the winter, as well as his pickles and jams. Many kinds of beans dry well, as well as most fruit.
Cherries, by the way, are easily dried in the sun. Wash them, remove the pits, pat them dry and spread them on a cookie sheet outside when rain is not expected. Cover with cheesecloth to keep the birds away, and secure the cloth by tying a string around the container to keep out ants as well. When you bring them inside after two or three days, put them in the oven at low heat to kill possible bacteria. (Or you could just dry them in the oven to start with.) They could be used wherever you would use raisins. My Cousin Tipsy likes to soak them in grain alcohol for a number of weeks and then use them in Christmas trifles. The grain alcohol, by the way, becomes a really delicious cordial.
You might want to bring your cherries to the next meeting of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society, where Dr. Agronomosky will bring his food dehydrator and Herr Krumelschicht, his pressure cookers. The meeting will be a workshop on food preservation of all kinds,
Gardener chefs will compare notes on the different preservation methods they use, including the techniques’ suitability to different varieties of fruit and vegetables. Also under discussion will be their convenience, consumption of time, and their nutritional advantages and disadvantages. The alternatives to canning, freezing, and drying — salting, candying, and pickling, to mention a few — will not be neglected.
Aunt Sioux, ever the traditionalist and apparently impervious to hot temperatures of any kind, will bring a panoply of antique and near-antique canning implements whose uses she will explain. She mentioned the following: a graniteware canning kettle, long wooden spoons, jar lifters, various types of pottery and glass jars, canning funnels, strainers, water bath canner, and food mill. Of course, there will be lots of books and a recipe swap, which should include Aunt Sioux’s famous apple sauce.
So mark your calendars now: Saturday, August 17, at 10 a.m. at the Hyattsville Municipal Building. Further questions can be directed to email@example.com.