Saturday, August 7, 2010

Preserving the Harvest

For those of us who put food by for the winter, this is a busy time of year.  It's been tremendously hard for me to try to do this while we are in the midst of moving.  I did get some strawberry jam made, but usually by now, I've got many pounds of blueberries in the freezer for some midwinter treats (like pies and muffins and such).  I do hope to get out blueberry picking tomorrow.  I also usually have peas and carrots in the deep freeze and many ears of corn off the cob in bags ready for the snow fly.  This year, I'm very behind in such things.

Today, I managed to procure some wonderful shell beans from the local farmer's market.  Though they are not organic (there are NO organic farmers markets in our area, grmph), they are lovely.  I bought some last year and froze them and used them in a stew or two in the winter time.  I found them to be a bit hard, even after stewing for a little while, so this year, I decided to learn a better way to preserve them for freezing.  The advice called for blanching for 4 minutes prior to freezing.  Ah!  I should have known to do this as I blanch most everything else I freeze, but it didn't occur to me that shell beans needed the same treatment.

Above are the beans in all their glory.  I purchased them at the farm stand and I thought they looked so interesting, I just had to get them.  So glad I did, they are delicious!  This is a shot of the pods along with what the beans look like once shelled.

I just love all the different variations of color of the beans. The pods and beans both look as if they were painted in watercolor.  A very artistic bean they are!  Once cooked, they go almost pastel, a few different shades of pastel that are almost a gray color with a little pink intermingled.

A collandar of empty pods.  I truly find the textures, colors and feel of the produce so interesting.  Cooking is such a sensory activity, and being able to take the food from pod to table is a treat.  The fact that I can preserve it the day it is picked is also very satisfying to me.  I am truly hoping that next year, there will be a picture of the beans I planted with my own hands gracing this page.  For this year, I'm happy to have the local, fresh goods to preserve for the seasons to come.  If you have a farmer's market or stand near you, do yourself a favor and stop and get the best of what there is to offer this time of year.  Even "locally grown" items at the supermarket were not picked fresh that morning, I guarantee.  You'll get the peak of nutrition and flavor when you buy at the farm stand directly, and you get the satisfaction of knowing that you're supporting the farmer in your town.  It's a win-win proposition, I'd say!

Wishing you fresh produce (and shell beans!), ~Peacemom

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