Your garden is there to feed you with fresh vegetables for the table. But then what? Learn how to fill up your freezer and keep you in home grown vegetables all year round.
There are a number of ways to preserve your fresh vegetables that you have worked so hard to grow, dry store is the easiest form of vegetable storage, and is suitable for the main ingredient vegetables such as onions, garlic and potatoes. And of course certain fruits and vegetables are suitable for making jams, chutneys and ketchups.
But by far the most convenient way of preserving the rewards of your vegetable garden gardening will be the freezer.
Virtually all your vegetables can be frozen, the exceptions would be cucumbers and lettuce as frozen temperatures destroy these plants. And some vegetables such as peas seem to be made for freezing.
Here are the vegetable garden gardening groups with some general rules on freezing.
All brassicas freeze well, simply prepare the vegetables as you would require them for the table then blanch in boiling water for about a minute, 30 seconds for broccoli, and plunge into ice cold water to stop them cooking. Drain and pat dry, freeze on trays and bag up once frozen.
Beans and peas freeze well, simply pod peas and broad beans, rinse and blanch for just under a minute, chill in cold water and tray up to freeze. French beans need little work, top and tail, rinse and blanch and freeze in the usual way. Peas take no time at all, maybe thirty seconds in the boiling water.
Runner beans will need slicing and consequently they will tend to lose small beans in the hot water so blanch runners last when batch freezing. Once blanched, chill, tray up and freeze in the normal way. Some people will tell you that runner beans do not freeze well; yes some beans may go a bit tough but if you choose the right variety, such as Polestar, and pick when young, runner beans make great freezing vegetables.
Potatoes do not freeze unless you prepare a mash and freeze as mash potato portions. You can use your damaged spuds to cook down this way.
Carrots freeze well as do parsnips if you need to, however parsnips are better left in the ground over winter and we would only freeze if there were vegetables left in the ground in the spring.
We have never frozen beetroot as they too will stay in the ground until needed and as yet we have never had too much.
You will not need to freeze onions and garlic as they store well in dry store, but if you are having problems with softening onions, particularly at the end of the winter, then you may be tempted to freeze them. The only way to successfully freeze them is to dice them into bags, but no matter how thick the bag, the onion smell seems to take over the freezer.
Leeks will freeze, but they should be fine left in the ground over winter unless the temperature has been up and down, if so they might try and flower and you will need to pull them. We would prefer to use excess leeks as onions, or perhaps make braised leeks or potato and leek soup rather than freezing them sliced.
Your pumpkins, squashes and courgettes can be some of the most rewarding parts of vegetable garden gardening as they crop so well, and yes they also freeze well too. You can even freeze a glut of squash. Just prepare as if you were going to cook with them, blanch for half a minute, plunge into cold water, drain, dry and freeze on trays.
But probably the best way to freeze these vegetable would be to turn them into soups and bag into portions. Squash and pesto soup is a favorite, and for something a bit different why not try Thai pumpkin soup.
Spinach is a good freezer crop although perpetual spinach is usually available fresh. But throughout autumn and early winter it can get a bit tired. If you plan ahead you can freeze down quite a lot in the summer. To freeze spinach pull off the stalks, roughly chop and cook in boiling water until well wilted, then chill in cold water and roll into balls squeezing as much water out as you can. Then simply tray up and freeze. You’ll be amazed at how little space is needed to freeze what seemed like a mass of spinach.
Tomato is one of our most important crops as we make a lot of pasta sauces, chillies and curries and would get through a lot of canned tomatoes in the winter without a freezer.
We grow a lot of tomatoes, over 30 cordon type tomato plants as well as bush and patio plants. The bush tomatoes give us our summer veg and the greenhouse cordons fill our freezer.
Over the years, as a good all round vegetable garden gardening tomato many swear by the Money Maker variety, they freeze well and make a good sauce. Another good one is San Marzano, supposedly the chefs choice for tomato sauces.
Freezing tomatoes is easy, just wash and dry them, put on a tray and freeze. Then bag up to store. Seems odd but when you defrost them they are just right for sauce making.
Here are some more vegetable garden gardening ideas for creating the perfect kitchen garden.