In the spring we dealt with a late start to the growing season, hungry critters (in my case chipmunks, deer, and Peter Rabbit). Then summer came, and it seemed to get off to a nice wet start; unfortunately, the early summer rains didn’t continue, and the promise of an ideal growing season evaporated along with the last drops of rain.
While we’ve been dealing with less than ideal growing conditions- hot, dry weather where the one rainstorm had large hail that flattened some plants- we are still being blessed by an abundance of garden goods, and there has been enough that many of us have been busy canning and freezing. Peppers of all kinds are abundant, as are tomatoes and cucumbers, beans, summer squash, zucchini, and beans. Corn is just beginning to come on.
Last Saturday we held a canning workshop at Big Ugly facilitated by Dana Wright from WVU Extension Services, with 25 in attendance. We canned sweet banana peppers and talked about proper canning procedures. Even though I’ve been canning for many years, I still learned something that I didn’t know that could have impacted the usability of produce I can since I learned old methods before technology made canning not only easier but the end product safer to eat.
But while it’s nice to preserve food for winter (I have 14 quarts of summer squash, 12 quarts of zucchini, 8 quarts of tomatoes, 4 pints of pickles, 8 pints of peppers so far), I enjoy having veggies straight from the garden, and have been busy making zucchini pasta, fritters, zucchini bread, salads, eggplant stir-fry, and summer squash veggie chips (also good with zucchini) as a replacement for fries. I’ve been busy scouring recipes to find new ways I can prepare old favorites; so far it’s a tie between zucchini-parmesan sticks and zucchini fritters for me, though my daughter prefers my version of Morning Glory coffee cake that uses shredded zucchini, shredded carrots, shredded apples, coconut, black walnuts, local honey, and fresh cherries (also abundant this year, and cheap if you aren’t lucky enough to have a cherry tree).
Looking ahead to our next workshop, I’ve reached out to Dana about a workshop on freezing as many of us do prefer that method for some things, but it’s not just sticking stuff in a plastic bag or container and throwing it in the freezer, if you want to avoid freezer burn and have food that still tastes good 3 or 4 months down the road.
So, to all you gardeners- enjoy preserving, preparing, AND eating the tasty fruits (and veggies!) of your labors.