5 Best Garden Vegetables to Can or Freeze
Plant Your Own Vegetable Garden
If you have enough space to plant a small vegetable garden this spring, not only will you eat better, but, you will also save money on your grocery bill all year. Fresh vegetables not only taste much better but are much healthier for you too. I really like knowing where my vegetables came from and what has, or has not, been put on them. I love planting the seeds and watching them come up each spring. When I go out to pick my garden each morning, I feel like I am on a treasure hunt. I am going to list here, what I believe are the best vegetables to grow in your garden to can or freeze, so you can continue to enjoy them all year.
Spinach is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. It is an "early garden" vegetable and can be planted after your last hard freeze. It may grow quick enough that you can plant a second crop before it gets to hot. You can pick the small baby leaves to use for salads and the larger leaves can be used for cooking. If you are using the larger leaves, you want to wash them very thoroughly and take out the larger veins in the leaves before cooking them. If you plant several spinach plants, you will may get more greens than you can eat from your garden. You can store them by boiling them in salted water until they are tender. Drain them and let them cool, then put them in freezer bags. I am always sure to get all the air out of the bag and I double bag them to keep them from freezer burning, then place them in the freezer. You will have spinach to cook with all winter.
Garlic is such a commonly used vegetable and is very good for your health. It is another early garden vegetable and you can plant your garlic after your last hard freeze, it will even tolerate a hard frost unscathed. Once your garlic blooms it should be ready to dig up. I have had garlic come back year after year in places that I do not till up. Garlic can be stored in a cool, dry place where they can get air circulation. They should store well for a long period of time. Once they begin to feel a little soft, you can freeze them to use for cooking when you need them. Now you have garlic to use for your recipes all year long!
3. Green Beans
Green beans or, sometimes called “string beans” are really very easy to grow. They grow best before the weather gets too hot, so be sure to plant them right after you think you have had your last frost. Green beans grow in low to the ground bushes and have to be picked, which can be backbreaking for some people. I love picking green beans, but my back does get a little tired sometimes, so I have a small child’s plastic chair I have taken out to the garden. We can green beans every year, and have enough to last us until they put on again the next spring. I have frozen green beans in freezer bags but they will get freezer burned after several months. Fresh green beans are delicious cooked with some ham or bacon, or steamed with a little garlic and butter! Now you will have your home grown green vegetables to eat all year round.
Onions are another early garden vegetable that you can plant after the last hard freeze. You can dig up some of your onions early and have what we call “green onions”. I love to eat green onions with nothing but saltine crackers! Green onions will not keep very long, so be sure and refrigerate them. Wash them well and place them in a tall glass with just enough water to cover the bulb of the onion and place the glass in the refrigerator. Green onions are great to slice and put in salads. I also chop the green stem and use them instead of chives for my baked potatoes. For the onions that you leave in the ground to get bigger, you want to watch the stems. Once the stems on your onions have turned brown, it is time to dig your onions. Onions will keep for a long time also, stored in a cool, dry place with air circulation. Some of your onions may not get very big, but those are the best to put in stews. Once your onions begin to feel a little soft at the top, you want to use them immediately or you can chop and freeze them to use when cooking when you need them.
I think everyone's favorite vegetable to grow is the tomato. Nothing is better than a fresh, homegrown tomato! You can plant cherry tomatoes for salads and larger tomatoes for slicing and cooking. Of course, you can take the salt shaker with you and do what I do ... pick the tomato, rinse it with the hose, give it a little dash of salt and eat it! My husband and I love to make our own picante sauce with our tomatoes each year. I use a lot of tomatoes in cooking also, so I learned how to can my own "stewed tomatoes” to use for cooking. We can enough tomatoes so that I never have to buy stewed tomatoes or picante sauce, I always have some on hand.
There are several other vegetables that you can grow and store for later use, but I believe these five are the easiest. At least, they work the best for me. Just to list a few of the others, you can grow cucumbers to make your own pickles. Broccoli and cauliflower can also be frozen for later use. Okra is a southern vegetable that is very good fried or pickled. Pickled okra can be canned and stored all winter.
I hope I have given you some good ideas that will help you eat healthier and save some money on your grocery bill. Happy gardening!
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© 2011 Sheila Brown