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Harvest and store your garden bounty

What to do with all that produce that's ready to pick in August?
August is awesome! Pick and eat, then store what you don't eat. Here's how. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

After picking, certain vegetables and fruits are best kept frozen. These include berries of all types, greens such as spinach and Swiss chard, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, tomatoes, turnip, beets, and zucchini. You can either vacuum freeze or keep in a ziploc bag.

Blueberries, haskaps, raspberries, saskatoons, strawberries are easy to store. Wash, dry and place on a tray and flash freeze. Once frozen place in a freezer bag and store. Most fruit and vegetables are good in freezer for at least six months.

Beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas must be blanched before you freeze them. To blanch, first clean and cut into bite sized pieces, the place in a large pot of boiling water. Boil for a minute, then chill vegetables in ice water for three minutes. Pat dry, place on a tray and flash freeze for up to three hours, then transfer to freezer bag and store.

Blanching kills the enzymes that are involved in the process of decaying. Freezing does not kill the enzymes, only the heat of boiling water does.

Corn, onions, sweet peppers, and tomatoes do not need to be blanched. Simply cut into pieces, flash freeze, place in bag and store.

Cook rutabaga and turnip until they can be mashed and frozen in meal sized containers. Cook beets in slices and then freeze. For zucchini, shred, cook for three minutes and freeze.

When harvesting carrots, cut off the tops and only brush off lumps of dirt. Then let them dry in the sun or a warm area for about 4 hours. Store in cardboard boxes, in layers: first a damp newspaper, a layer of carrots, a layer of damp peat, a layer of damp newspaper, etc. Check occasionally to ensure the peat is damp. Store in a cool dry area for up to five months.  

If you want to keep your carrots in the fridge, cut the tops off, brush off the dirt and place them in plastic bags with holes in the sides, in the crisper. Check and remove excess moisture weekly. They should last for three to four weeks. The same process can be used to store beets, rutabaga, and parsnips. However, they will only keep for about two months before they soften. 

Harvest onions when the tops start to die off and fall. Leave them for a week and then pull them up. Cure them in a hot area for at least a week, then store in a cool, dry area. They can last for months if kept cool.

Potatoes reach their maximum size just before the vines start to die off. After that you can dig them up, or wait until before a frost. After digging, wipe off surplus dirt and cure for up to two weeks in a warm, dry, dark area. This toughens up the skin resulting in less long-term moisture loss and more resistance to bruising. Store in light-proof containers and keep at about 5 degrees Celsius at moderate humidity. They will keep for up to 6 months. Remember, light causes potatoes to turn green, a poison. A certain amount of air circulation is desirable.

Harvest squash when the skin changes colour and is hard to indent with your finger nail. Start by wiping with disinfectant, then cure for a couple of weeks in a warm area. Pumpkin and winter squash will keep for months in your basement.

Harvest garlic in late August when the leaves start to turn brown. Lift the bulbs out with a garden fork, gently brush off dirt, and hang for about 14 days in a dry shady area. The skin on the bulbs should become papery. Either cut the stems about 2 inches from the bulb and store on a tray, or braid the stems and hang in a dark dry area.

When you can’t eat all your grow, donate, freeze or store.

Charles Schroder gardens in the Edmonton area.