Lauterbach: Veggies don't have to end when it cools down

Special to The Idaho StatesmanSeptember 5, 2013 

The Idaho Water Garden and Koi Society’s Koi and Goldfish Show is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 14 at Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 N. Penitentiary Road, Boise. Scheduled are koi competitions, a trade show, bonsai displays, a Japanese drumming performance and more. It’s free.

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This is harvest season in the vegetable gardens, time to "put up" your winter food. Many crops will survive winter so your garden can continue to feed you. Mache or corn salad, started in time (late last spring) will be of harvestable size by the time our daylight hours shrink to fewer than 10 per day.

It's at that time that greens and other plants are dormant, reviving the first week in February when daylight hours expand. Spinach and lettuce, started early enough this fall, should feed you through this time if covered. Lettuce can't withstand some of the cold frosts that spinach can.

Most of the brassicas will stand. I harvested a Romanesco broccoli one Jan. 1 a few years ago. That winter was a normal winter, pretty cold temperatures. Parsnips tolerate being left in the ground, but carrots do not. Carrots split and provide food and shelter for destructive soil critters.

Some harvested crops such as winter squash don't need special treatment, just storage in frost-free areas. Some such as green beans, Swiss chard, beets and tomato combinations may be frozen. Some varieties taste better after freezing than others.

Many of us also freeze basil blended with olive oil. later after thawing adding chopped nuts, minced garlic and shredded hard cheese such as Parmesan, Picorino Romano, Gran Padano, etc. for tasty pesto. Taste a basil leaf before processing to make sure it isn't bitter.

Some folks claim garlic turns musty in the freezer, so I don't add it until I'm finishing the pesto for serving. Pesto on cooked pasta is delicious and healthful.

We snap and blanch Slenderette green beans, then freeze in one cup amounts. I shell beans for dry bean use such as Cannellini, Tarbais Alaric, Yin-Yang, cranberry, Tiger Eye, and black turtle beans.

Our climate is excellent for sun drying foods. Unless you have an electric dehydrator, make a square frame of scrap wood and cover it with inexpensive nylon net. Put it out in a wind-sheltered area loaded with sliced fruit, tomatoes, etc., covered with another sheet of nylon net to bar flies. The frame allows the food to be dehydrated from the bottom and the top at once. Bring it indoors overnight, lest evening dew undo the day's drying.

Small electric dehydrators work such as American Harvest work very well. You can also buy extra racks and add them to your load, taking a few minutes to rotate shelves every so often. You can dehydrate herbs, fruit, halved cherry or plum tomatoes, sliced tomatoes, zucchini, etc., for winter soups. You lose the texture of food in dehydrating, but not the nutrition or flavor.

If you have a convection oven, you can also dry food in that. Some dehydrate food in the rear window of their car, but I think it would cook before dehydrating.

Winter squash lasts months in dry cool rooms or closets, but if you wish, you can puree and dehydrate the puree on parchment-covered dehydrator racks. Native Americans cut winter squash into strips and laid them in the sun to dry.

Fruits may discolor unless treated with flowers of sulfur. Excellent instructions are available in "Dry It, You'll Like It," by Gen MacManiman, and "Putting Up Food" by several home economists.

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I should have been more specific in writing about "green manure" recently. Technically only those cover crops that are tilled or dug in at the end of a season are regarded as green manure. Cover crops that are scalped from the soil, roots left intact, are not so identified.

Send garden questions to melauter@earthlink.net or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.

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