Savor Seasonal Fare Throughout the Year
One of my favorite things about living on a farm is the fact that I can eat in season almost year-round. Not only is the food good for me, but I also enjoy numerous other benefits by growing a garden.
For instance, planting and harvesting vegetables offers more exercise than you might think. Depending on the size and requirements of your garden, you could spend several hours per day tending to it. All that time outdoors is not only good for the physique, but it can also play into your overall mental outlook by relieving stress. Studies have shown that planting and working in a garden can improve one’s perspective and may even help to ward off dementia due to the planning and creativity that come into play.
SEE MORE: Tips for Harvesting Summer Veggies
What’s more, you can enjoy these benefits while saving money. Fresh produce from your garden will lower what you spend at the grocery. And, last but not least, I think you’ll agree there’s a sense of pride that comes from growing and providing your food.
Surely with all that good news, you’ll be eager to grow a garden of your own. That only leaves one question: What to grow each season? Luckily, there are a variety of cool- and warm-season vegetables that are easy to grow and taste delicious when harvested at their peak. Here are a few of my favorites:
Summer Planting Plans
In the spring, start thinking about summer plantings in order to eat in season year-round. The most popular of all growing seasons, summer promises the bounty of traditional garden delights such as tomatoes, okra, corn, eggplant and squash. As a general guideline, all of these will need to be planted after the last frost. Because numerous plants thrive during the summer, I recommend assessing your space, your local growing conditions, and what you and your family enjoy eating. You can plan out a garden from there. You can find growing tips at your local nursery, on seed packets and on websites, including pallensmith.com.
How to Freeze Fresh Vegetables
Though fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs taste great on a hot summer day, imagine how perfect they are come winter. Having these frozen vegetables and herbs close at hand means I can enjoy the flavors of my garden any time.
To freeze vegetables, you’ll want to blanch them and then place in freezer-safe, zip-close plastic bags. You can also use a vacuum sealer, if you prefer. Whatever you bag the vegetables in, be sure to label with the name and date. I recommend searching online or in one of your trusted garden or cooking resource books for blanching times. For vegetables such as squash and eggplant, go ahead and make it easy on yourself by chopping them into thin slices, and then freezing. They’ll be ready to use in a casserole or sauté in a skillet as soon as they thaw.
SEE MORE: How to Blanch and Freeze Summer Squash
Fresh herbs can also be frozen. When the herbs at my farm are at their peak, I like to pick them, chop the leaves and place one teaspoon into an ice tray compartment. I fill the tray with water, and when the ice cubes are frozen, pop them out and put in a freezer-safe, zip-close plastic bag for storage. When you are ready to use, simply add the cubes to your soup or sauce recipe.
Cool-Season Vegetable Gardens
Many of the same cool-season vegetables you planted in the spring – leafy greens such as arugula, lettuce and spinach, plus root vegetables such as turnips, beets, radishes and carrots – can have a second growing period in the fall. This means you can get a double dose of your favorites, but be sure to check the seed packet or plant tag on transplants for exact planting times. Plants such as broccoli and rutabaga need to go in the ground 10 to 12 weeks before the first frost. However, other fall vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower and mustard greens only need to be planted six to eight weeks before the first frost. Brussels sprouts are especially great for fall gardens because they thrive in cooler weather and actually taste best when they are allowed to mature in it. You will want to set these out early because they take about 90 days to mature.
Speaking of maturity, no matter what time of year, I recommend planting a variety in your garden. Because different plants have different maturity periods, this will give you a continuous food supply throughout the season.
What about winter, you ask? I suggest eating your stockpiled vegetables during the cold winter months when the ground is frozen. With the proper preparation, you can freeze your spring, summer and fall harvest to enjoy during this dormant period.
SEE MORE: Saving Herbs for Fall and Winter