Bring it on, fall equinox
Here in sunny Southern California September started as it somehow always does, with a gentle breeze and a gentler swelter. Last week we harvested over 50 pounds of heirloom tomatoes that had rushed to ripen in the sauna-like heat of August’s wrath, and this week we took advantage of the cooler temperatures up in the Malibu hills, finally planting our delicate seeds to get a jumpstart on the winter.
When it’s December and you need your fruit fix…..
As promised, we’ve put together a few ways to preserve those coveted summer veggies through the winter.
- Freeze ’em: You can freeze virtually anything for long-term storage. Most veggies can last over a year in the freezer and still retain their flavor; that means that your zucchini or tomato bounty from this summer will last you into next year’s!
- Step one to freezing most vegetables is blanching. Some vegetables contain enzymes or bacteria that will slowly cause the vegetables to break down or rot. Blanching eradicates those bacteria to insure a healthy freeze.
For a quick how-to on blanching, click here.
- Can em’: Though freezing and pickling are trendier than canning these days, there’s no other way to keep those sauce tomatoes ready to eat on a whim. Since canning is a bit tricky, check out this canning how-to from the authors of the Organic Encyclopedia themselves.
- Pickle ’em: To pickle, all you need is veggies and brine. Brine can be salt water or any type of vinegar, flavored with seasonings of your choice.
- Wash the vegetables thoroughly to avoid any lingering bacteria. Boil your brine mixture (water, vinegar, salt, maybe sugar) and pour it over the veggies and flavorings. Once sealed, an unopened jar can be stored for months— but for all of you pickle lovers out there, you’ll have to wait three weeks for the perfect pickle.
Best veggies to pickle: cucumbers, beets, radishes, cauliflower, onions, ginger, carrots, and lots of fruits!
Fun fact: why you’ll never see oversized vegetables at markets
Seed-bearing fruits have one purpose in life: to spread their seed. Some fruits, like cucumbers and zucchini, will swell until they’re longer than a forearm and fatter than a sub sandwich (see above photo of an Armenian cucumber that we somehow overlooked for multiple harvests). When these fruits swell, they fill with water and give all of their nutrients to the seeds, which in turn mature and get larger. This results in the pulp losing its flavor. Don’t waste the big zucchini in your garden, however, because it’s still great for stews, bakes and breads!
Now please enjoy some photos of a few of our favorite volunteers wielding massive zucchinis.
Produce of the week: Malabar spinach
We call Malabar spinach a succulent variety of spinach, but the truth is, it’s not even related to our beloved cool season green. Malabar spinach falls into a plant family comprised of tropical-growing, fleshy, succulent vines. The squishy leaf is also known as indian spinach or vine spinach. Though the leaves are often spongy and oversized, it tastes and cooks just like common spinach.
Introducing: Our volunteer of the week
Jessica is a DJ and producer, and she travels all over and DJs at nightclubs and private events. Working in nightlife and living in West Hollywood, she found herself missing the outdoors. She is from Vancouver, Canada and as a child she was always outside surrounded by greenery and wildlife. When her friend told her about One Gun Ranch she jumped at the opportunity. She’s worked with us for a few weeks so far and she’s loved being outside and learning about biodynamic farming. Jessica says the staff is awesome, knowledgeable and they really take the time to educate volunteers. She feels grateful after volunteering at the ranch, because its such a magical place.
We think you’re awesome too, Jessica!