by Barbara Porsch, Master Gardener
There often is a time about now when the garden has been producing like crazy. Your poor countertop hasn’t seen the light of day for weeks because it is covered up with squash, cucumbers and now maybe okra, or whatever is going crazy out in the backyard garden. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH ALL THIS?
I feel you can never have too many tomatoes because they are so easy to handle. Of course, you can make sauce or relish to can, but if you really have too many tomatoes, the easiest thing to do is freeze them. Rinse them off and put them on a rimmed jelly roll pan (Or they will roll of on the floor. I speak from experience.) and place in the freezer until frozen. Then you can store them in a zip top freezer bag. Just take out what you need when you are making soup, stew or chili. Larger tomatoes can be sectioned and put into a quart freezer bag. I find that is just about the equivalent of a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes. A friend cores the smaller tomatoes (like Roma, etc) and then when he takes them out to use them, the skin just slips right off.
There are those who like to blanch their veggies before freezing. I don’t think it is absolutely necessary, especially when I have a big amount. But it does set the bright color of the vegetable. Blanching is easy, but does take a little time. Bring a big pot of water to boil. Put the whole tomatoes or sliced squash in to cook just one minute. Then put them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. That’s all there is to it.
Zucchini or squash can be frozen easily also. You just have to remember that these frozen veggies will need to be used in baking or cooking soups or stews. They will never have that crisp fresh texture, so be sure to eat as many as you can before you resort to freezing. My favorite salad is made with tiny raw zucchini and yellow squash sliced extra thin with thinly sliced red onion and shaved parmesan cheese. Pickled squash is a real southern delicacy also.
Okra is also very prolific in our west Texas heat. It freezes very nicely and is great to add to gumbo and Cajun dishes and pickled okra is a culinary delight.
Cucumbers are abundant also. Slice up a cucumber in your pitcher of ice water for a delightful refreshing drink. Pickles are easy to make also. Many of the companies selling canning supplies have seasoning packets to use for different tastes. Also, if you have an extra refrigerator in the garage, these pickles can be stored there and you do not have to do the hot water bath.
So you have a few herbs in your garden or landscape. That’s wonderful. A favorite is basil and pesto is always a great way to use extra. Just google basil pesto and you will get more recipes than you want to read. Freeze your pesto in a plastic ice cube tray. When frozen, pop them out to store in a freezer bag. One cube is great to add to soups, pasta or on top of cream cheese. Or you can make basil oil. This is great to dip bread into and will be better than what they serve at Italian restaurants. You can also freeze chives like this. Just fill up the tray with chives and cover with water. Great for adding flavor to cooking.
I hope I have given you a few ideas of how to handle the onslaught of too many veggies. Just remember how great a taste of the summer will be on a winter day. It is well worth the effort.
For more information about vegetables that perform best in our area and optimum planting schedules, please contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offices at 686-4700 or 498-4071.