This time of year is great – warm weather, lots to do outdoors and fresh produce everywhere. Many people find it easier to eat a rainbow of colours in summer when so much local produce is around, but it’s not so hard to preserve and store this good stuff to enjoy all year. Just buy extra when it’s fresh and find a favourite recipe or way to preserve it. Voila — you’ll be savouring the taste of summer even in the darkest days of winter.
3 simple Suggestions to Get You Started:
- Freeze berries. Place blueberries, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then put into the freezer for a few hours. Gently remove the frozen berries and transfer to a freezer bag or storage container. Add frozen berries to muffins, oatmeal, yogurt or smoothies.
- Freeze zucchini. Shred fresh zucchini with a grater or slice with a mandolin. Pat dry with a towel, and then transfer to a freezer bag or storage container. Use it in baking or add it to meals such as tacos, pasta sauces, frittatas and lasagna.
- Make tomato sauce. Turn those ripe tomatoes into sauce using your favourite recipe, or try this one here. Transfer the cooled sauce into freezer bags or storage containers. Enjoy it all year in casseroles, lasagna, or over pasta
- Make jam. Quick and easy no-cook jam can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks or in the freezer for many months. Jam made with pectin and preserved in canning jars will keep on the shelf all year. Experiment with different fruits: strawberry, peach, blueberry or fig — the possibilities are endless.
- Make salsa. Enjoy the flavour of ripe tomatoes all year with a traditional canned salsa. Make it mild or spicy, or even change it up by using other fruits like peaches.
- Preserve herbs. Basil, oregano and thyme can be dehydrated, and then enjoyed in pasta sauce, soups and casseroles. Try freezing chives, mint or tarragon on a cookie sheet, then store in a freezer bag. Or add chopped basil or oregano to ice cube trays, fill with water and freeze. Simply pop a herb cube into your pot when making soups, sauces and stews.
- Blanch and freeze vegetables. Peas, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans freeze well. Blanch them first in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to help them maintain their colour, texture and flavour. Leave some beans whole and chop some into smaller pieces –that way you will have options depending on the dish you need them for.
- Freeze fruit. In addition to berries, try rhubarb, peaches and figs. Prepare them how you plan to use them – pit peaches, chop the fruit as needed and then freeze in a single layer. Transfer to a freezer bag or container. Enjoy in baking, desserts and smoothies.
- Make tea. Dried peppermint or spearmint leaves are great for making your own herbal tea. Or try something different by dehydrating fruits like strawberries or oranges to make your own fruit teas.
- Label each freezer bag or container with the contents and the date. Most foods will stay good for about a year.
- Measure the food, and write on the label how many cups are in each freezer bag. This can be helpful when you use frozen fruits and vegetables in recipes.
- When canning, stick to the recipe and canning instructions exactly to ensure your canned foods are safe to eat.
There’s a payoff for doing all this prep work ahead of time. Once it’s done, you can just grab an ingredient from the shelf or the freezer – no washing or chopping required. When you buy in-season produce you help support farmers in your community and province, as well as benefit from in-season pricing. Produce that is picked and frozen right away retains more nutrients than you find in out-of-season fruit and vegetables that have arrived from afar.
We’re so lucky to have so many options for fresh produce in the summer months. Be sure to enjoy the bounty.
For more nutrition information and tips on increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, sign up for a Nutrition Tour of your local Save-On-Foods. www.saveonfoods.com/nutrition-tours/
Jill Wallace, RD. Jill is the owner of Nurture The Future Prenatal and Family Nutrition. She has been a Save-On-Foods Nutrition Tour leader in the Vancouver area since 2009 and is now also doing tours in the Victoria area. She likes to give tour participants hands on nutrition advice that can really make a difference in their life. Jill enjoys growing food and creating recipes. She does a lot of work around vegan and vegetarian eating and mindful eating as well as work around pregnancy, children and families. You can find more information and recipes on her website nurturethefuture.ca