not all who wander are lost.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hobble and Harvest

I have been on crutches for 9 days now. Well, I guess that I was on them for only about 6 days, the past three I have been hobbling. I don't hobble far, just around the house, always rest, ice and elevation between the hobble sessions. I've been hobbling mostly around the kitchen - my favorite place in the house. To say that I'm stir crazy would be an understatement, and the only thing I can think to do is cook and create. Lucky me - I've had lots of vegetables to work with! My mom has enlisted my (handicap) services this week as she harvested radishes and string beans after the big rains that we had. She has been super busy working as well as with taking care of Dad and me - so she hadn't gotten around to thinning the radishes, or even picking any at all. SO, she brought in armful after armful of inedible radishes with green stalks about the size of a tall midget. Not to worry though, because the greens are edible and not only that, but they are delicious!! So she set me up a station, one seat for sitting and one to elevate my leg - with a huge bucket of water to prewash the picked greens in.

Also harvested this week were mounds and mounds of string beans...enough for a small army. Lori King showed up earlier in the week, picked heaps of the SB's and then went home-- it was a huge help and a super kind gesture that my exhausted mother and her invalid daughter appreciated. After another big summer shower the other day, Mom put on long sleeves and long pants to ward off the mosquitoes and spent nearly two hours picking bucket after bucket after bucket of SB's. I was inside, again set up with a seat for seating and a seat to elevate my leg (with ice on my knee of course!), cleaning up the harvest. I picked the ends off of nearly 5,000 of those little green bastards. But despite the tedious work, I'd do it all again -- because you simply CANNOT beat something that is fresh from the garden, grown with love. It just tastes BETTER.

“The difference of a single day is perceptible. Vegetables can only be tasted in perfection, gathered the same day.”

John Pintard (1759-1844)

We had so many that we obviously couldn't eat them all or give em all away -- so we froze a bunch. But you can't just throw them into the freezer, there are steps to take. Onions, peppers and herbs do not need to be blanched. Squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin should be fully cooked before freezing. All other vegetables need to be BLANCHED...

Why Blanching Vegetables is Important

Enzymes are necessary for plants because they cause them to grow. But after a plant is harvested, those previously beneficial enzymes continue to work their magic to the plants’ detriment. If left to their own devices, plant enzymes will quickly cause the plant to lose its color, flavor and texture.

The purpose of blanching vegetables is to slow the action of the enzymes for freezing or freshness:

  1. Freezing – it is often a necessary step prior to freezing your market-fresh or home grown veggies for longer-term storage (not over 6 months).
  2. Freshness - it will cause vegetables to keep their color, texture and flavor longer… a nice trick for leftovers such as salads. It’s also a good way to quickly cook vegetables without sacrificing texture, flavor and nutrition.

How to Blanch Vegetables

Proper blanching is specific to each vegetable, and it is not necessary for all vegetable:

Here is a high level overview of how to blanch vegetables:

  1. Add a little salt to a pot of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Prepare vegetables as described for that specific veggie.
  3. Boil or steam veggies until they are tender but still crisp. The boiling time required is specific to each vegetable.
  4. Drain the vegetables.
  5. Fully submerge vegetables in cool water for the same amount of time that they were boiled or steamed.
  6. Drain, and your fully blanched vegetables are ready to go.

Note that vegetables can either be steamed or boiled. While blanching time typically takes a little longer using steam, it may preserve more of the vitamins and nutrients.


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