Saturday, March 18, 2017

So How's YOUR Broccoli?

Attempting to grow enough vegetables in the garden, then harvest and process them for eating all winter, is always a challenge.  Most years I'm  fairly successful, but it seems I inevitably run out of something before fresh produce from the garden starts coming in.


This year my shortfall is going to be broccoli.  I knew it would happen as the broccoli plants didn't do very well last season.  It could have just been the year or maybe the variety of seed I planted. 

This morning I took stock of all our vegetables and quantities of same left in the freezer, root cellar and basement.  Neither Papa Pea nor I like canned vegetables because of the lack of fresh flavor.  The heat involved in the canning also destroys many of the nutrients we count on our veggies providing for us.  Therefore, other than the potatoes, beets, carrots, onions and garlic kept "raw" in the root cellar and basement, all our veggies are frozen.

I found I had only 4 servings of broccoli left out of 22 servings frozen.  (Waaah.)  I further depleted the supply by putting 2 servings in the big pot of potato soup I just made this morning.


There are always PLENTY of green and yellow beans.  (I like to mix them for appealing color on the plate.)  They're easy to grow in our climate and although I plant only eight feet of each variety, the fruitful plants give us more than we need.  I froze 61 servings and probably have half of that left.


Brussels sprouts servings number only 5 left.  I put by 22 servings and because we love them, the supply has dwindled quickly.


I know many people don't grow (or grow enough to preserve) green shell peas because they are thought to be too labor intensive.  A good portion of my field garden is given over each year to trellises of shell peas because they are almost our favorite vegetable.  I don't mind a bit sitting and shelling them because . . . well, I get to sit down which doesn't happen a lot in the summer time around here.  I froze 28 servings and have 6 left.


We eat tons of sugar snap peas fresh off the vines, but I've given up trying to freeze them.  They always come out limp, a touch tough, and lacking in flavor.

There is usually cauliflower for us to eat over the winter, but my crop was a total bust this past year.  Did not even get any to eat fresh.  Heads formed to about the size of 2" across and then bolted.  Drat.

Right after a first frost, I harvest all remaining kohlrabi and am able to keep them in the refrigerator until we use them up.  This past season I had about 12 of them.  I don't cook them as we prefer them raw in salads or as raw, crispy sticks for munching.


Before frost I harvest all the slicing cucumbers left and keep them in the spare refrigerator until they're gone.  I usually have about 15-20 of them, I give away some of them and the rest will last about a month.

Extra sweet peppers that don't get made into Stuffed Green Peppers are chopped, quick frozen on cookie sheets, and then packed in freezer bags.  I made plenty of them this past season.  Two gallon bags were tucked away in the freezer and I still have 3/4 of the last bag left.  Our pepper crop was abundant and I also still have many, many meals of Stuffed Green Peppers waiting for quick, easy dinners.  I put up a total of 49 servings.  A serving equals a meal for both of us.

The potatoes, beets and carrots in the root cellar are holding out in good shape.


There are plenty of onions left in the basement.  Well, I should say plenty of yellow onions.  I brought these up yesterday and although I still have one full milk crate of the yellow onions, these are the last (sob) of the red ones.  Note to self:  Plant more red onions this year.  After harvest last fall, I had 3 crates of the yellow and 1 of the red.


The bulbs of garlic in the basement are going fast.  I'll run out way before the ones in the garden are ready this coming season.  Fortunately, I did plant more this past fall than previously.

Until we have our hoop house in place in the garden, I can't successfully grow corn (or enough tomatoes for preserving either) so I have to purchase cases of frozen corn from our organic co-op.  This usually amounts to about two cases or 24 bags over the winter.  Fortunately, a bag gives us somewhere around 3 servings.  We like corn.

That's kind of a quick (okay, not so quick) overview of the vegetables we still have on  hand.  I find that as soon as the garden starts producing fresh greens, we lose our hankering for what frozen veggies are left and desire the fresh greens as a vegetable on our plates.

I don't know how interesting this has been for any of you, but taking the time to go through my inventory has been very helpful for me.  I've made some notes for the garden for this coming season and . . . looks as though I'd better start serving meals with beans as the vegetable with more frequency.

33 comments:

  1. As a beginner and aspiring grow all of my own food gardener, it's VERY interesting for me to read. I love how the Brussels Sprouts look! I'll be planting some this spring, I hope they turn out well. I'm interesting in seeing your hoop houses when you have them all installed. I'd love to grow corn, but that'll be down the road I think. Even with all the seeds I have, I don't think I'll have enough to feed us all winter, but we still do have that gorgeous market within an hour's drive away, that's where I got the 80 pounds of tomatoes last August.

    I know how you feel about losing the hankering for frozen veggies, ours is already there!! I have a salad planned for tonight because we are just craving fresh lettuce. I didn't realize that the canning zaps the veggies that much, so you'd recommend freezing veggies over canning them?

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    1. Rain - I would absolutely recommend freezing veggies over canning. The one drawback is that in the event of a prolonged power outage, you would have no worries with the canned veggies, but the frozen ones would be another matter. We've thought of this and have solar panels which supply about 50% of our electrical needs while operating a full household and also a back up generator which would probably have to be brought into play in a power outage situation.

      Rain, I am so eager to follow your gardening adventures this coming season. It's going to be so exciting!

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    2. Due to limited freezer space I always regretted having to can rather than freeze our veggies. You can imagine how happy I was to read this newer nutritional study: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/frozen-and-canned-fruits-and-vegetables-vs-fresh While heat can damage some nutrients I also find that I can rather quickly pressure can small amounts so they lose as little as possible. My canner sits at the ready all summer long.

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    3. I should have added that with power outages that seem to occur with more and more frequency with no apparent weather cause I don't have to worry about the canned veggies. We can lose power for periods of up to 3 days. Winter, no problem, we haul anything we need to keep frozen outside to say frozen but those summer outages are another story.

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    4. Thanks Mama Pea! I'm so excited to start...Mother Nature is teasing me, but I'm taking it all in stride :) Thanks to you and to Sue O for the information about canning vs freezing.

      I've found over the last 2 years that we use our freezer much more during the winter months. We had a power outage last winter that lasted only 8 hours or so, so we were okay, but we figured we'd put all the freezables out in a container on the porch if we had to. When we buy our property one of the musts will be a generator. I can't help remembering the big ice storm of 1998 when I lived in downtown Montreal that left me with no power for weeks, no water, no heat...it was a scary situation for a young gal! I'm hoping for solar power in my future as well.

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    5. Sue O - There's no doubt about the fact that canned veggies or fruits have a longer shelf life than frozen. I suppose choosing canning over freezing or freezing over canning has many variables. It may come down to personal preference in most cases. The homemakers of years ago certainly did manage to feed their families (and sometimes LARGE families) by canning all their produce. Plus the canned food must have had enough nutrition to allow the families to be healthy and work as hard as they did!

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  2. I am beyond impressed at how much you eat "from your garden" year-round! We eat our fruit year-round, but don't manage much out of season in the veggies department. :-(

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    1. Thanks, Michelle - Raising as much of our own food as we can has always been a priority with us. It would be a chore if I didn't enjoy gardening as much as I do!

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  3. Another inspirational blog, and one which fires me with enthusiasm to get more out of our vegetable garden, which we are going to have to do if we are going to sell our excess produce!

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    1. Vera - We took a stab at market gardening about four years ago. We sold to a restaurant in town that took everything we had to offer. It was interesting to learn that planting and growing the produce to sell wasn't that much of a chore BUT harvesting and getting it ready to deliver turned out to be more time consuming that the return was worth for us. I'll be very interested to see how your venture goes this year.

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  4. Amazing! We just ordered seeds this past week. Do you direct sow most of your veggies?

    When you freeze your veggies, do you blanch them first? What do you put them in to freeze? We have tons of banana peppers from last year in the freezer. I just quick froze them on a cookie sheet and then vacuum packed them in plastic.

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    1. Katie C. - I start cauliflower, peppers, cabbage, broccoli,tomatoes (cherry), Brussels sprouts and some flowers inside to transplant out when the weather is warm. Everything else I direct seed. Some like cukes, squash and pumpkins under cold frames or cloches.

      I blanch the veggies before freezing except for the sweet peppers (cut in pieces) I quick freeze on cookie sheets and then bag. My peppers for Stuffed Green Peppers are blanched before filling.

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  5. when i was a kid [almost 70,now] enamel basins were on nails on the back porch.
    if you went visiting you got a pan, a couple of pans on the floor for strings and pods, and you got a panful of peas or beans and worked while you chatted
    sort of a pea stringing bee.
    lovely to remember it.
    we used to be a neighborly nation. miss it.

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    1. deborah harvey - Lucky for me, my daughter loves to shell peas and is always willing to help do that. You're right, it is always a good time to visit and the task goes quickly that way. Good memories you have.

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  6. p.s. patrice lewis at ruralrevolution blog planed a short corn that was quick to mature last year. don't remember the name but you might check her website. they live in idaho, so that corn might be right for .

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    1. deborah harvey - I know many of the new hybrids do mature in shorter seasons, but I want a corn that I can save seed from to be a little more self-sufficient. I have successfully grown Painted Mountain corn (saved seeds and successfully replanted the following year) which originally came out of the mountains of Montana. One big problem I have here are the winds we get. My corn was blown over each of the last three years I've planted it so until I have that wished for hoop house or figure out some other way of protecting the corn stalks from the winds I've given up planting it.

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  7. I do find we are eating more seasonal now, our freezer space is given over to meat so not much veg is frozen, we still have leeks, chard, beetroot, purple sprouting broccoli, sprouts cabbage and kale growing outside, we have had a mild winter.

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    1. Dawn - Oh, yes, I do envy you folks who have a milder climate where you can have fresh veggies in the garden over the winter months. That's the best of all!

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  8. I was going to ask about blanching as well but I see you've answered it already.
    I didn't freeze any veg this last year as we had too much meat stored but we've had some veg to keep us going. Still have leeks, chard and purple sprouting to eat in the garden but I need to grow so many more veg to store over winter. Lots more carrots and beets to lift as well as kohl rabi this year. Won't be long until we're harvesting again. Should have some stuff ready for June but if we couldn't buy from the ships that would be a hungry gap in production!
    How big of an area do you garden?

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    1. Kev - The different veggies require different amounts of blanching time, but I follow instructions in my Ball Blue Book and it works!

      You, like Dawn, are able to winter-over some vegetables which is wonderful. I've tried by covering them with cold frames, mulch, even styrofoam, but everything turns to rotten mush (no, not nice) because our frost goes so deep over the winter months.

      I garden in twenty-six 4' x 8' raised beds plus my field garden which is approximately 35' x 45'. The blueberries and raspberries are in a separate area. I'm planting for the first time this season in an area we worked up last summer to give more room. That should provide about 400 sq. ft. more.

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    2. I love this answer! I was going to ask how big you garden. I have unlimited space and a backhoe to pull out the rocks (CT). I have to clean out the sheep and goat pen to augment it. The spring will have to be piped in to irrigate. Do you get enough rain to water your field or do you irrigate? I have a high water table for my bush fruit so I leave them alone. I am just now getting my energy back so I am planning for more food this summer. I benefit so much from people who are already doing it and in a colder place than me!

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    3. Farmer Barb - Most gardening seasons, I have to supplement rainfall by hand watering with a hose. We are lucky enough to have a well with ample water to do so and we have half the system in (never got it finished) to pump water up to the garden from our pond so we're in good shape there. My raised beds dry out faster than the field garden so I have to watch them a little more carefully.

      I hope this coming gardening season is fruitful for you and that you enjoy gardening as much as I do!

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  9. I still have broccoli, and like you I don't like the way our sugar snap peas freeze. I only use them in chicken teriyaki if I freeze them. We have not been successful with getting enough shell peas to freeze. We will have to increase it.

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    1. Kristina - You've got lots of helping hands there to sit and shell peas . . . so put 'em to work! ;o} I've heard you talk about using your frozen sugar snap peas . . . so I'm happy to hear I'm not the only one who doesn't like the way they turn out!

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  10. Mama Pea,

    Nice looking harvests, and they lasted you through the year. No broccoli here (it died off or the bugs took over), the only thing I have left are some onions in my pantry, some green beans in the freezer, and believe it or not carrots, pickles, and tomatoes in canning jars. This growing season will be very small, I can't wait until the next full season.....that's when I'll be back to full canning, freezing, and dehydrating.

    Have you tried dehydrating the snap peas?

    Hugs,
    Sandy

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    1. Sandy - You'll have your hands full this season getting set up on your new homestead, but knowing you I'm sure you won't go without growing some things.

      I've never tried dehydrating the snap peas. That would be something to experiment with though.

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  11. My broccoli is non existent. Some horrible blight? No a husband who cannot even abide by the aroma of it cooking let alone eat it. I love the little trees. Three years back I planted an asparagus bed. A dream of mine for years finally done. I had a few come up the following Spring but last year it rained almost as much as this year but not quite. Enough though to drown my bed I fear as I had none last Spring. It has poured since October and is raining buckets as I type this. I had one shoot that we added to some I had found at the market. And that is it so far. I am thinking that my Asparagus bed is needing some renewed efforts and perhaps just beginning again. I am a canner but I am wondering how you get green beans to come out nicely. You know crunchy and tasty. Any time I tried to freeze them they turn to rubber with just a blanching. Trade secret please?

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    1. Goatldi - What is it with asparagus? Two years ago I put in our most recent asparagus bed and, knock on wood, it seems to be doing great. We harvested for only 10-14 days last year and this year hope to have enough to harvest for a month. This is the third time I've tried growing asparagus on this property . . . and the third time seems to be the charm. The first two? Total failures.

      Sounds like you've had waaaay too much rain in your area. Hope things straighten out soon.

      Okay, beans. First off, I pick them before the beans inside start to bulge. I figure on the under-developed side is better than over-developed. They're much tastier and crunchy then. Mine literally go from garden to freezer in a couple of hours, tops. I cut them in short lengths, blanch them for 3 minutes, then put them in ice water to stop the cooking process, let them stay there for several minutes, spread them out on a towel and dry them as much as I can, spread on cookie sheets in a single layer, and put them in the freezer until frozen. Then I pack them in freezer bags until needed. Mine have always come out tender and tasty when heated in boiling water for several minutes. Hope this helps!

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    2. Yes it did. I will try it this year and see if it flys. Sorry for the delayed reply . It has been so crazy I meet myself going and coming. The rest of the time I am so pooped I can read the post , formulate a reply in my head then get distracted and roam to another blog and forget to go back and reply to the original blog or any blog at all. Sigh!

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  12. Always LOVE hearing and seeing about your bountiful, beautiful garden. Because of you I began growing those Peas and they've become a regular in our garden now. Slowly but surely through the years we've downsized to plant what vegetables are most important for us to grow and we're hoping this year we'll have a decent garden, as last year's burned up in the horrid hot, dry long-lasting summer. Your garden photos are always inspiring! :)

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    1. Lisa - Thank you for all of your kind words. I think I needed the garden photos to get me ready to start seedlings inside! Still a couple more weeks before the first of them can be started but I'm ready for it to begin.

      I doesn't make sense to grow things your family doesn't like or won't eat so I can understand your feelings there. Gosh, you've got to have a better growing season than last year. Fingers crossed for you for that!

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