We have had mixed luck with our garden this year. Some things just seem to produce in abundance until we are begging for them to stop, like cucumbers, and others are not producing as well as we have seen in the past, like tomatoes. We dealt with the cantaloupe bounty by sharing them with friends and family whenever possible since they do not store well. We also shared many of the cucumbers and made some quick pickles, but most of the cucumbers we had were not the “pickling” variety. Other items are well suited for storage, assuming we do some processing first.
We have done some canning, freezing, and fermenting in the past, mostly freezing, but we decided to broaden our horizons this year by doing some dehydration/drying as well. We began by cutting what salvageable basil we could find in the garden. Much of the basil has some sort of mold on it, probably due to the crazy amount of rain we have had this year. The rain is also likely the reason we have had such a poor tomato yield. Tomatoes don’t like wet feet. We simply chop the basil in the food processor with a little bit of olive oil and then bag it into individual one ounce servings and freeze them. We have typically made pesto to freeze but since Scott is not eating any dairy we went with a different approach.
Next, we decided to try the dehydration feature of our new oven. Lemon balm has done exceptionally well here at the new house as well as the chocolate mint. We can use them in teas so they seem like good candidates for drying. We also have thyme that we’ve been using often as a fresh herb over the summer. The plant is not very big but you don’t need much for a lot of flavor. In the past, we just use it until it dies back in the winter, but we decided to harvest a large part of the plant to dehydrate. This worked out really well and as long as we remember to dry it every year we should never need to buy thyme again! Also, all three of these herbs are perennials!
Finally, we have had amazing luck growing jalapenos. We have fermented them in the past but decided to try dehydrating them as well this year. We picked 7.5 lbs of jalapenos this past weekend from only four plants and there are still plenty for another round! We are fermenting and dehydrating many of them and will also be making stuffed jalapenos. We should have enough jalapenos in one form or another to last until next years harvest! One important lesson learned here was to always wear gloves when slicing large amounts of Jalapenos; if you don’t wear gloves be prepared for a day or two of burning fingers.
It has been fun to try new ways to preserve the harvest and it is nice to know that we can relatively simply save what we’ve been growing for use throughout the winter.