Non-gardeners may suppose this time of year is when those of us with vegetable gardens sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor, but we know better. After all the watering, planting, weeding, training and mulching —this is harvest time! Fortunately, on a small scale, harvesting vegetables has enormous universal appeal. When they were younger, my daughters’ primary motivation for picking cucumbers was that they loved pickles—but then they discovered that harvesting was also a treasure hunt. They approached tomatoes similarly until they met their first tomato horn worm. With baskets and tubs filled to the brim with late summer vegies, it’s time to move into the kitchen. Armed with the following ideas, enjoy your harvest!
Tomatoes – Of course, there’s sauce. I make large pots, cooked long and slow with fresh basil, oregano and marjoram. Then it goes into meal-size portions in ziploc bags and frozen. Given a decent tomato crop, we rely on them all year long. I also roast tomatoes—with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a liberal sprinkling of sliced garlic. After 3-4 hours at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, they’re ready to pour into ziploc bags too—later added to soups, stews–anything that might benefit from a concentrated taste of summer. I’m also a recent convert to freezing whole tomatoes. I used to think they’d be too space-consuming, but thanks to a friend’s suggestion, I tried them. Simply core tomatoes and pop whole into large plastic bags. They freeze separately, as long as they’re not wet—then when a recipe calls for two or three, just run under a cold faucet, and the skins easily slip off.
Peppers These can simply be chopped raw and bagged for the freezer—they’ll freeze separately enough so that you can remove just what the recipe requires—but use only for cooked dishes. I also recommend roasting peppers—they’re best eaten soon afterwards, although Ancho chiles can be frozen for later. Sweet peppers make a delicious Italian pepper salad–broil peppers whole– either on the grill, or under the broiler. Turn frequently; when they are covered with black spots, place in a paper bag. Peel skin off cooled peppers. Cut in half, and remove the seeds. Cut the peppers into long strips, about ¼-1/2” wide. Marinate in: ½ cup olive oil, 3 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced They are ready to eat in an hour, and keep refrigerated for one week.
Cucumbers We love all kinds of pickles in our house, and make many different kinds. Here’s the simplest and quickest to make, perfect with so many summer dinners, Asian or not: Japanese 3X Pickle Mix together in a medium size bowl: 1 tsp salt, 1TBSP sugar, 3 TBSP rice vinegar Add 1-2 cups thinly sliced cucumbers. For more, simply multiply again. Cover the bowl with a small plate and leave at room temperature for at least ½ hour. For longer periods, refrigerate.