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Tree Hugger Tuesday: Eat Local, Be The Ant.

August 7, 2012

Last month’s Tree Hugger was all about how awesome local food is – or, rather, pretty pictures that demonstrated how awesome local food is. Now that you are all inspired to go local as much as possible this summer, I am sure the question you’re now asking yourself is:

How do I eat local, and enjoy this deliciousness, all year round? Summer doesn’t last forever! At least not around these parts…

What, you’re not asking yourself that? What, it’s still summer? You even checked the calendar. Well, unfortunately, I have news for you. Eating local all year round involves some planning – and that starts now.

The thing is, for most of us, summer eventually ends. It gets cold. The sun stops even bothering to show up for more than a few hours a day. As a result, plants die. All that local bounty? Ka-put. The good news? You can still enjoy summer all year round – it’s just that planning for the [long cold icy dark]months of winter has to start early.

Well. Really, it has start when the food you want to keep eating is still in season. Like Aesop’s ant, you need to put that food by while it is still yummy – or you lose your chance.

Now, I can see all of you rolling your eyes right now. Ohhh I hear you. Putting food by? What does that mean – canning? Doesn’t that take forever? Don’t I need special pots? Doesn’t it involve a lot of boiling water? It’s still summer and it’s still hot.

Fear not! I, too, am a lazy mofo who has no desire to spend entire afternoons boiling jars in August. Instead – I freeze.

Well, no, I don’t personally freeze, but I prepare for winter by freezing food in the summer. And while it does require some boiling (veggies often require blanching), it works out well for a lazy mofo like me. What do you do? Easy:

    • Vegetables: Simply blanch (quick boil followed by ice bath to seal cuticle) and freeze. Don’t expect these to be awesome when you pull them out – but they’re great for making soups or casseroles when the snow’s falling. I have had broccoli come out nicely, and greens do alright too. Of course, some can be frozen raw: I put tomatoes on a cookie sheet til they’re frozen, then bag ’em. No cooking required. But they’re only good for sauces and soups when thawed.
    • Fruit:I put up strawberries, peaches, and nectarines by just freezing. Peaches and nectarines I’ll split, skin, and remove the pit first. Other berries, your raspberries and blues, I’ll put in what’s called a sugar pack first before freezing. Now, you’re supposed to use acerbic acid to preserve things, but I rarely do. The only issue is peaches often turn colors after a day out of the freezer – but I don’t mind this. Fruit is then ready for baking, or mixing in yogurt… or frozen margaritas…

All you really need is a chart of how long to blanch specific veggies, or how much of a sugar pack to use for fruit. I found this amazing PDF guide online, that includes 40 pages of info on freezing things. Really, all you need is the blanching guide on page 10, and the fruit guide that starts on page 14. However, do keep in mind this tip from e-How: “Once thawed, the fruit is best suited for use in baked goods or as an add-in for yogurt or sauces. Vegetables tend to stand up better to freezing and can be cooked directly from the freezer, with no need to thaw them first.

Voila! Fresh, local food – all year long. But remember, you have to be the ant, not the grasshopper. It’s time to start preparing, kids.

Two helpful resources: ~  “How to freeze fruits and vegetables” The comments are also helpful for additional tips!

Food Freezing Guide
Great resource for more than just fruits and veggies!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2012 7:02 pm

    Great tips Nikki, Dar and I bought one of those handy dandy vacuum sealers this year so I know a lot of what’s in the garden now is going to go into the freezer for sure! We also plan on doing some canning (homemade salsa and maybe even some home made spaghetti sauce) and experimenting with other ways to preserve our garden full of yummy goodness.

    • August 8, 2012 8:51 am

      Oh the vacuum sealer will be a great help! I haven’t had one, but would like it… that said, I’ve only lost beets to freezer burn so far. Would be interesting to see the improvement, though! Either way, you can freeze pretty much anything from the garden… and make tasty soups and casseroles all winter!

      Homemade salsa and spaghetti? Nom nom nom…

      • August 8, 2012 6:53 pm

        Nom, Nom Nom, save that for Canada!!!

        • August 13, 2012 9:34 am

          LOLZ!! Bob! Naughty!

        • August 13, 2012 6:49 pm

          Not naughty just saying what needs to be said. Go Canada Go.

          Lord I hope he’s not a total douchebag.

  2. August 8, 2012 2:17 pm

    I am living of fresh strawberries at the moment (is there anything better??). Soon it is blueberry season. The one thing I miss a lot is the chanterelle mushrooms season in Sweden that is coming up soon. I love how each season has it’s own yummy foods. Carrots, turnips, spuds, swede etc etc they all just require cold, dry storage (yeah like most I do not have a underground storage cellar, I wish!) and those are the best stews veggies ever in winter.

    Ok…. am hungry now. All your fault.

    • August 13, 2012 9:35 am

      I LOVE food during the seasons – even if that means I have to miss ripe tomatoes for ten months. Makes them all the better when late July hits!

      And, yeah, cold storage would be a blessing – so many things you can so easily store…

  3. August 16, 2012 7:32 pm

    Round these parts, eating local means hunting, for the most part. We can get some veggies flown in from not too far away, but local is pretty much meat. …not counting salmon berries.

  4. August 16, 2012 9:26 pm

    Great info as always, Nikki! Mmm, peach margaritas…

  5. August 22, 2012 12:27 am

    Great tips. This will save you money too since buying fresh produce during the winter can get quite expensive. Do you can fruit at all? Any advice?

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