Thursday, May 5

First Harvest May 2011

Nothing is prettier than your first bountiful harvest! .
L-R: Swiss Chard, Lettuces, Spring Onions, Broccoli Heads & Leaves
I didn't take a picture of it, but this is one of those double-wide baskets with a big curved handle that has totally disappeared under this bounty. The broccoli headed up beautifully, this year, because we had quite a few cool days BUT -- and, this may be the real reason -- I planted everything a month, earlier, to see if I couldn't beat the heat that made everything try to go to seed. The lettuces had already started to bolt because of the 80-degree days we've had in the past few weeks, but the leaves were still prime. Spring onions are just starting to bulb, but I usually leave them in ground through the year and just take harvest for the meal.
We had the most delicious fresh salad with additions of store-bought cabbage, celery, carrots, roasted pecans, and dried cranberries. A dollop of home-made Thousand Island Dressing and sis and I looked like conveyor belts at a gravel pit! I could just feel the healthy popping from every pore -- well, until we dug into the fried chicken wings! -- but, I figured it was a great offset.
I use every part of the broccoli plant and began the dehydrating process with the florets. To keep the nice green color, I zapped them in the microwave for three minutes. It seems to make the dehydrating work better. Now, I used to know why, but I'm still trying to remember where I put my morning coffee, so I may have to come back and pop in a follow-up -- unless one of you would like to answer in the comments? -- please? 
L-R: Broccoli florets, Stems, Leaves
The Swiss Chard is going to accompany tomorrow's dinner. Probably won't dehydrate any from the garden until the end of the year, because it just keeps growing throughout the season. With a nutty taste between spinach and the crunchy head lettuces, there's no way not to like this versatile vegetable. But, unlike the lettuces and spinach, Swiss Chard is your friend and will feed you as long as you give it a little room and some shade. You can start it off in the cooler spring months and collect its bounty through the fall. A member of the rhubarb family, it's the perennial that just keeps giving. I LOVE this plant!
Dehydrating vegetables means you can have them on the shelf for years and they're still good, as long as no moisture has entered the container to cause molding. Always be sure to check thoroughly for signs of mold before using, and, if you see it, throw the contaminated food away. Don't try to just get rid of the moldy parts and use the rest. Life's too short (well, yours will be!) to take chances. The little white pillow you see in the above jars are dessicants and help keep the moisture out. I don't make individual packets for about a week to make sure that everything stays dry. By vacuum-sealing in smaller portions, you can keep help keep losses to a minimum.

The florets reconstitute to almost the original size but should be used in recipes that will incorporate their color and taste, rather than be spotlighted as a side dish. Use the frozen ones for that. The leaves and stems will be added to soups and stews, as well as powdered to be used as a thickener or added to bread and pasta flours. The best part is just how little room dehydrated foods take on the shelf, adding almost no weight stress, an important difference from the old days of having to worry about it all coming down. Have you started to harvest your gardens, yet? How are you preserving the excess bounty?

2 comments:

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