How to Preserve Excess Vegetables From the Late Summer Garden

Joan Gussow shares her tips on how to preserve excess vegetables from your summer garden, including freezing tips, canning and drying ideas.

| August/September 2002

Learn how to preserve excess vegetables from the summer garden for your winter larder.

The garden is bursting with life this time of year . . . tomatoes are fainting all over the sweet potatoes, and the kale trees are leaning suggestively into the eggplant.

In her glorious new cookbook Local Flavors, Deborah Madison answers the question of how to use everything she sees at the midsummer farmer's market: A long, Italian platter heaped with compatible vegetables — cooked and uncooked — and dressed with fresh herbs and olive oil. Right about now though, even a long Italian platter may not be enough to bail out the gardener whose ambition has come home to roost.

My late husband titled one of his vividly evocative pastels "August Madness in the Garden." And it is. The garden is bursting with life this time of year, and the plants — overwhelming my efforts to keep them within bounds — engage in Dionysian couplings. The tomatoes are fainting all over the sweet potatoes, and the kale trees are leaning suggestively into the eggplant.

These are the months when New York summer storms, hurrying through to drop their loads of water, pull behind them fresh mornings with a hint of fall. Before I go out to enjoy, I lecture myself in my journal: "Pull yourself together Joan and do something." That trace of coolness in the air tells me it isn't enough to graze myself sick on the produce, I've got to put some of it by for the months to come.

In most parts of the country, there's as yet no threat of frost pushing us to rush out and strip the garden. But the sudden, heavy rain that broke a dry spell cracked open whole clusters of cherry tomatoes. Right about now they and their larger neighbors are starting to rot on the vine. When the smell of spoiled tomatoes hits you every time you pass their beds, you know it's time to get a 5-gallon bucket for the rotted ones, a large basket or two for the savers and settle down to clean up the chaos.

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