Hello, fresh and local Minnesota-grown produce! The sheer number and proximity to so many fabulous farmers add to the reasons I love calling White Bear Lake home. To make the most of local abundance this summer, frequent farmers markets, visit pick-your-own farms or harvest the rewards from your own garden.
Eating with the seasons ensures the freshest flavors. Harvesting local food at its peak ripeness and bringing it home to preserve for a winter’s day extends that flavor for months. From taste to nutrition, environmental impact to local economy-preserving, local food now pays immeasurable dividends long into the future.
Here are some of my favorite methods for preserving the best of our local summer bounty.
Freezing: Fast and easy. Produce to freeze: all the berries, shredded zucchini, corn on the cob or sliced off, green beans, peas. Either raw or roasted bell pepper slices, whole or sliced tomatoes. Frozen produce lasts a solid six months and locks in vitamins.
Fermenting: Added nutrients + depth of flavor. Produce to ferment: cabbage as sauerkraut or kimchi, beans, beets, zucchini, carrots and cucumbers as ‘pickles.’ This is really easy: prep and add salt, then patience, with delicious results.
Dehydrating: Set it and forget it. Produce to dehydrate: Apple slices, zucchini slices, herbs. Peppers, garlic and onion (sliced or pulverize for powders). You can air dry many herbs without a dehydrator.
Canning: Longest lasting summer-in-a-jar flavor. Produce to *Hot Water Bath* can: Tomatoes (whole, sauce, roasted), salsa, dilly beans, applesauce, jams/jellies, pie fillings. These are all safe for a hot water bath process. *Vegetables need a pressure canner.
If you are ready to dive in but want more specifics, I recommend the National Center for Home Food Preservation website and my own Forks in the Dirt ‘recipes’ tab for tried and trusted recipes.
Michelle Bruhn is a writer, educator and community organizer focused on helping neighbors dig local food through her Forks in the Dirt online presence, classes and farmers markets.