Put Up Summer Vegetables

August is a time of plenty in the garden. Tomatoes, peppers and okra fill the refrigerator. But I want to savor summer in December so I put up summer vegetables now.

This is not my favorite task when the weather is beautiful outside. Already cooler days and nights signal fall is here with winter close behind. I want outside to enjoy the last of the warm times.

That is part of homesteading. You can’t always do what you want to do. Usually you can’t. You do what needs to be done so I take a few days to put up summer vegetables.

My canning days are over. Now I freeze the vegetables. How much I put by changes from year to year because we eat less and I cook less. Recipes matter too.

put up summer vegetables like okra
Okra likes hot temperatures as long as the plants are watered regularly. Regular watering keeps the pods soft even when they get bigger. This year the plants started bearing at about three feet tall and are now about five feet tall, branched, with okra on every branch. I use pruners to cut the pods off.

Okra tastes great, at least the varieties I grow do. The first year I put some up, I washed, cut, bagged and tossed in the freezer. It was awful.

My mother gave me a “Joy of Cooking” cookbook when I moved into my first apartment. The recipes are largely ignored. The About sections are well used. Okra needs to be blanched before being frozen.

My okra prep now includes a stock pot of boiling water, okra in a wire basket, immersion for about two minutes, cold water rinse, bag and freeze. The okra tastes okay, not like fresh, but makes good chicken gumbo.

put up summer vegetables like peppers
Recipes call for green peppers which are bitter. I much prefer colored bell peppers without the bitterness. Every color (I’ve grown eight.) has a slightly different taste. They can be frozen stuffed. I prefer chopping them and freezing them as that suits my cooking better. The plants like it on the hot side of warm and regular watering.

Cooking for two means much smaller amounts are needed. I put one meal’s worth in a fold lock top sandwich bag, stack several in a quart freezer bag and freeze. The same method works for chopped peppers.

Tomatoes are different. I hate skinning tomatoes. I’m clumsy. The skin shreds. Tomato juice drips all over.

Preferably paste tomato types are checked for flaws and ripeness. They are spread out in the freezer to freeze then piled into a gallon freezer bag. When these thaw, the skins slide off.

paste tomatoes for sauce and soup broth
Indeterminate tomato vines get big and overrun the neighboring plants. They bear continuously once they get started. Regular tomatoes have a higher water content than watermelon! Paste varieties have less water and make good sauce, salsa, broth and more. My usual variety is Speckled Roman. This is a gift plant to try. It has worked out well. The label said Hungarian Italian.

Other tomatoes are diced, boiled, cooled and bagged in two cup amounts in quart freezer bags. I can add onions, peppers, garlic etc. later. Adding it before freezing blends the flavors better and I’ve done it that way many times. Getting older has made me a little lazy.

Much as I hate doing these tasks now, I know, if I put up summer vegetables now, I will enjoy summer until the garden again overflows the kitchen next year.

Summer produce competes in county fairs as in “Mistaken Promises“.