Posts tagged: crop storage

Kitchen Tip: Freeze your extra eggs

By , January 9, 2015

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze eggs

Did you know? You can most certainly freeze eggs! I’ve never read about this handy tip but I’m sure others have done it. For the past year I’ve been freezing my extra eggs and they turn out great. I use them mostly in baking, but also for scrambled eggs or an omelet.

And let’s not think about Easter yet, but this is a great thing to do with the contents of the eggs you blow out for your Easter Egg Tree.

Here’s how I freeze them:

1. Crack egg into a small plastic container. Snap the top on and shake it until the egg is scrambled.

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze eggs

2. With the top still on, place in the freezer till frozen solid.

3. Remove from the freezer, and let the container stand on the counter till it’s melted just enough to pop the egg-disc out.

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze extra eggs

4. Place into a freezer bag. Thaw at room temperature whenever you need an egg!

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze extra eggs

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(c) The Herbangardener, Cat sniffs eggs

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Low-tech, No-cost, DIY Herb & Food Dehydrator

By , May 4, 2012

Dehydrated chives

I’m all about low-tech, and this dehydrator is as low-tech as it gets.

The idea for it has been knocking ’round the back of my mind for quite a while now, and finally I just did it. It’s simple and slick. I dehydrated some garden chives yesterday, and they came out great. This would also be great for mushrooms and any other food, really.

Materials:

Cardboard box (shallow with a wide base is nice)

Clean tea towel

Lightweight tablecloth or large scrap of lightweight fabric

A warm day, or an open window with a breeze

Procedure:

1. Lay your tea towel in the bottom of the box.

2. Spread your herbs or food out on the tea towel.

3. Wrap your tablecloth around the top of the box, tucking the ends underneath so it stays secure.

4. Place the box in the sun, or in an open window. The cloth provides shade for the drying items and protection from flies, while also allowing air to flow.

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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

By , November 4, 2011

I got a question the other day about what to do with green tomatoes… well, let me tell you!

Green tomatoes are always part of the Autumn routine for us. Once picked, most of them ripen over the coming weeks, and some years we’re still eating homegrown tomatoes past Christmas!

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Here’s how I handle all the tomatoes that we pick before the first frost hits:

1. Usually I leave the tomatoes hanging out in an uncovered cardboard box for several days or a week. This is usually because I don’t get around to addressing them, but it also allows the close-to-being-ripe ones to ripen more fully.

2. When I’m ready to deal with them, I gather a few cardboard boxes and some newspaper. I go through the tomatoes, separating ones that are showing signs of ripeness (light blushes of color or softening flesh) from the rest that are still very hard and green.

3. Put the ripening ones in their own box or paper bag, and check them every day or two. Or, leave them out on the counter.

4. I put the rest into boxes — only one layer thick — and then lay some sheets of newspaper on top. Over the years I’ve evolved through several methods of green tomato storage, and this is the one I’ve settled on. It’s my favorite because it’s the easiest, with the fewest tomatoes lost to mold.

Methods I’ve used in the past include:

– I used to cut squares of newspaper and wrap each tomato individually — unwrapping, checking, and re-wrapping them each week, and marking with highlighter the ones nearing ripeness. This is not only an insane amount of work, but it’s also totally unnecessary. There are easier ways to get the same result.

– After I evolved away from that, I would use only one box and put multiple layers of tomatoes in the box, separated by sheets of newspaper. This was a little better, but still involved removing layers of tomatoes and newspaper, checking, and re-layering.

Store the tomatoes, only one layer thick, in boxes.

Cover them with newspaper.

5. Ok, so anyway, you’ll have multiple boxes with tomatoes only one layer thick. For this reason I like to use wide, shallow boxes. The boxes can be stacked as long as they’re supported by the sides of the box below and not resting on top of the actual tomatoes.

6. Keep your boxes in the coolest place in your house. Perhaps that’s a coat closet in your foyer, or in your basement. For us, it’s in the stairwell that leads from our apartment to our outdoor side entrance.

Store the boxes in the coolest part of your house. Check your tomatoes at least weekly.

7. Check your tomatoes at least weekly. It’s as easy as peeking under the newspaper. I like to move the nearly-ripe tomatoes to the top of the newspaper so that I can watch them and grab them when they’re ready.

8. Not all the tomatoes will ripen. Some are just too small and green to hold much promise of ripening, so this year I’m going to pickle them exactly the way I pickle cucumbers, using my trusty pickle recipe.

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Do you have a good way of ripening your green tomatoes, or perhaps a good recipe that calls for green tomatoes?

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Make Your Own “Green Smoothie Frozen Concentrate”

By , July 5, 2011

Green smoothie frozen concentrate made with lettuce, spinach, and lambsquarters.

So I peeked into my remaining three bags of lettuce from the garden this year, and discovered that they were starting to go south and needed to be used right away. I separated out the slimy leaves, washed the rest, and had an idea! I’ll make green smoothie frozen concentrate cubes!

To make the concentrate:

1. Pour some kefir, water, juice, or watered-down yogurt into a blender. You won’t need too much — just enough to get everything to blend together smoothly.

2. Add lots of greens. Ideas are: lettuce, spinach, beet greens, chard, lambsquarters, purslane, mint, parsley, cilantro, edible flowers, etc. (Kale is the only one I don’t like in a shake, but if you do, go for it!)

3. Start the blender and let it run until you have a uniform slurry.

4. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

To use:

When you’re ready to make a green smoothie, thaw out some cubes; I usually use 2 cubes when I make a shake for myself. Add the green liquid to your blender containing the rest of your smoothie ingredients — I like to use fruit and kefir with some ground flax seed and vanilla extract. Blend & enjoy. Yum!!

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If you’re curious about green smoothies, you might check out the book Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko, or the related website. My friend Sasha recommended this book to me, and I loved it! While I don’t agree with absolutely everything in the book, I’m glad I read it.

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How To Make Candied Violets

By , April 11, 2011

Here’s an old fashioned spring project to do! Preserve those ephemeral little violet flowers for use as a garnish (on a coconut cake for Easter would be nice…) or for a lovely treat at any time of year — violets have a wonderful taste and will keep for months once they’ve been candied!

The process is simple, and not too time consuming. You can make this a more delicate project by painting eggwhite onto each flower with a paintbrush, and then dusting with fine sugar, but I think I’d only want to dedicate that kind of time if I were making these for a really special occasion!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Freshly picked violet flowers & leaves (having them very fresh will make the project go faster and prevent frustration!*)

Egg white (not beaten or frothed) (use eggs you trust since it’s raw)

Ordinary white granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

Here’s what you do:

The flowers should be dry. No need to wash/dry them first — just pick them on a dry day and go for it. Dip each flower into the eggwhite. Give the flower a firm shake to get rid of any excess eggwhite. Hold it over a dish filled with sugar, and spoon the sugar over the flower until all surfaces are coated. Let the flowers dry on wax paper, parchment paper, or on a bed of sugar. (A plain baking sheet works too, but the eggwhite sticks, so you’ll have to carefully loosen the flowers with a metal spatula after they’re mostly dry.)

*The most important thing is to have fresh flowers (and leaves if you’re using them). Don’t pick the flowers, put them in a zip-top bag in the fridge for a few days, and then do the project; the flowers will have lost too much moisture and when you dip them in eggwhite, they’ll collapse. See photo below! Very fresh flowers will hold their shape even after being dipped in eggwhite.

Both have been dipped in eggwhite -- the flower on the left was in plastic in the fridge for a couple days, while the one on the right is fresh from the yard. Fresh is best!

That’s it! When they’re thoroughly dry (give them about 24 hours), store them in an airtight container. Room temperature is OK.

After Halloween: Cooking Your Pumpkin and Roasting Its Seeds

By , November 9, 2010

I hope you had a happy Halloween! Mine was uneventful, but I did go on a wonderful bike ride through the neighborhoods on Halloween night to see the decorated houses, carved pumpkins, and kids trick-or-treating. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time. To boot, it was an unusually mild night with a few diehard crickets still going (usually it’s snowing here on Halloween!), and people were sitting out on their front porches, candy bowls beside them.

Anyway, last year I cooked our Halloween pumpkin and I wanted to share the process if you’re interested in doing the same thing. One thing to note about the generic jack-o-lantern pumpkins is that they’re very lacking in flavor. Bland! And watery! But after draining out the excess water (which we’ll address below), the blandness can be a good thing because you can then sneak the pumpkin puree into your cooking (or baking) without affecting the dish’s flavor very much.

Here’s what to do:

With a sharp knife, cut your pumpkin in half, then cut off the stem.

Cut off the stem

Scoop out the seeds and SAVE THEM! We’ll be roasting them while the pumpkin cooks.

Scoop out the seeds and save them for roasting.

With a spoon and some elbow grease, scrape out the long stringy fibers. You have to really get in there with your spoon; attack that pumpkin!

Scoop out the stringy fibers

Set pumpkin cut-side down into a large baking pan with sides to contain the juice. If you don’t have a pan with sides large enough, then just bake them on cookie sheets, cut-side up. Or be creative and set them on something else, like a muffin tray to catch the juice!

Bake at 350* (or 375* — the temperature isn’t too important). You’ll bake it until the flesh is very soft, which usually takes about an hour, maybe more.

After you put your pumpkin in the oven, put the seeds into a colander. Rinse them and remove as much of the stringy orange stuff as you can.

Wash seeds & remove orange fibers

Spread them onto an un-greased cookie sheet and sprinkle them fairly liberally with salt. Bake them until they’re a very light golden color; you don’t want to over-bake them, but you do want them dry to the touch, and crunchy. This seems to take about 15 minutes for me, but the times may be different for you.

Spread on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt; cook till dry and crunchy

Eat!

Now, back to the pumpkin.

When the flesh is very soft, remove from the oven and let the pumpkin cool until it’s handle-able.

Bake till very soft

Scrape out the flesh, and discard (or compost) the skin-shell. Run the pumpkin flesh through a food processor or blender to improve the texture and break up stringiness. If it’s too dry to run through the blender, add a little water and blend; you can drain the water out (or cook it off) later.

Blend till smooth, adding a little water if needed

Since these pumpkins generally have quite a bit of water in their flesh, you’ll want to drain the puree after blending it. I like to dump the pumpkin puree into a colander and let that sit over a bowl overnight. You’ll be amazed at how much water drains out! Alternatively, you can just cook the water off instead of letting it drain away; just simmer the pumpkin puree, uncovered, in a pot over low heat until you’re satisfied with its consistency.

That’s it! Measure your puree into ½- or 1-cup portions and freeze into ziploc bags; I like to stack my bags neatly on a plate and freeze them so that they freeze into stackable shapes, like this:

Measure, stack, and freeze!

Nourishing Mixed-Herb Pesto

By , August 17, 2010

Oregano, parsley, & cilantro pesto

Pesto is such a versatile condiment — it’s wonderful over fish or chicken, on crackers, tossed with pasta, spread over eggs or sauteed zucchini, in a roasted vegetable sandwich, used as a pizza sauce, or straight off the spoon. And although basil pesto is the most common type, pesto can be made with any combination of herbs. In fact, I think I like mixed-herb pesto even better than basil-only — it has more layers of flavor! And don’t forget that herbs are mineral rich and packed with nutrition, and can definitely be thought of as a medicinal food.

Make a healthy snack with goat cheese and mixed-herb pesto on a raw zucchini slice "cracker"

Use any combination of fresh herbs that you want; pesto is a great way to use up heaps of herbs at once, such as the cilantro sitting in the back of your fridge and the overabundance of oregano in your garden. It’s also a nice way to preserve those herbs for use later in the year; use ice cube trays to freeze pesto into small portions and thaw as needed over the winter.

One nice combination is oregano, parsley, and cilantro — this is probably my favorite. Use equal parts…or not! Just combine according to the amounts you have. I do suggest, however, that you go easy on the fresh sage if you choose to use it; it lends an overpowering (and not all that tasty) element. Also, mint is nice as an added “splash” but go easy on that too, since it can also overpower.

My basic pesto recipe is as follows, though you’ll probably find you don’t even need a recipe. Just gather a bunch of herbs, add a clove or two of garlic (start with less garlic and add more later if needed), add nuts, cheese, and salt, and then olive oil to form a paste.

Basic Herb Pesto

1 cup fresh herbs, packed

2 garlic cloves, small-medium size

3 Tbsp olive oil, approx.

3 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese, approx.

1-2 Tbsp pine nuts or walnuts, approx. (optional)

Salt to taste

Put everything into the food processor and blend until a paste is formed.

Instead of using the food processor, though, I like to make mine the old fashioned way using a knife and cutting board. If you use a nice sharp chopping knife, the task goes faster and is more fun than the food processor (at least for me — I get angry at my food processor when making pesto!). The key is definitely the sharp knife. Chop your herbs, garlic, and nuts as finely as possible, add the parmesan (chop it up too, if you like), and then add olive oil until a loose paste is formed. You can replace a little of the olive oil with water if you want. Add salt to taste. The texture will be more rustic than paste-like, but that’s not a bad thing. 😉

Making pesto without a food processor

How to Save Your Own Tomato Seed

By , October 5, 2009

How to Save Your Own Tomato Seed

If you grow tomatoes in your garden (or if you plan to in the future), you might be curious about saving your own seed. I really love seeds for some reason, and I used to trade seeds on gardenweb.com about 10 years ago. The lovely gardening community at gardenweb (wonder if it even still exists?) was the source for many of the heirloom tomatoes I still grow in my garden. Tomatoes that are called “heirloom” or “open pollinated” are genetically stable, and will produce offspring consistently like themselves (unless they’ve been cross pollinated with something else in your garden, which does happen occasionally!). Hybrid tomatoes are much less stable genetically, and if you save seed from them, you never know what their offspring will be like (which can also be great fun!).

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How to Harvest Onions & Garlic

By , September 6, 2009
How to Harvest Onions & Garlic

The onions have finished curing, and are ready for storage in the fridge.

I love growing my own onions and garlic. They’re such easy crops, and they store really well in the fridge. During the summer, I’m always overwhelmed with produce that must be eaten NOW, so when I harvest these crops, I’m always grateful for their long storage capabilities!

Onion & Garlic Harvesting 101:

When the leaves (“tops”) have mostly died back (turned mostly brown…no longer green and growing…though there may still be some green in a few of the leaves), pull or dig the onions or garlic out of the garden. (Click here to find out exactly when to harvest your garlic.)

Thoroughly wash off any clinging soil.

Put your harvest into baskets in one layer — so that air can circulate around them — and leave them in a shed, garage, or on a covered porch for 2-3 weeks. Make sure neither water nor animals can get to them. After 2-3 weeks, cut off the dead leaves and inspect each onion for softness or mold. Expect to lose about 10-20% of your harvest to softness or mold. Transfer the rest into a bag in the fridge (or wherever you store your onions & garlic).

Harvest garlic & onions when tops have mostly turned brown

Harvest garlic & onions when tops have mostly turned brown. Put them into baskets in one layer (unlike the picture above!) and leave in a sheltered, outdoor place for 2-3 weeks to "cure."

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