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Well, the mercury is rising again and with the exception of the high electric bill, I’m enjoying it.
Remember a deep red sunset usually indicates prolonged good weather. A deep red sky in the morning usually means rain is on the way.
The garden is simply loving this weather. High temperatures and an inch (or more) of rain a week is perfect. The canning and preserving books are flying out the door at the library. Those of you new to bumper harvests may need a little help.
The county Extension Office (839-7271) in the county park has several free printed bulletins that help you with your preservation efforts. Whether you’re canning, freezing or drying, knowing when to pick and how to store is important.
Crops should be harvested in the cool of the morning. Tomatoes can sit in the full shade or inside on the counter. Do not chill them below 55 degrees. Beans and corn should be stored in bags in the refrigerator. Don’t wash the beans or shuck the corn until you’re ready to start preserving them.
Cucumbers, peppers and squash can be stored on the counter in a cool room. Peaches and berries should be stored in the refrigerator. I store my potatoes in the crisper drawers of my second fridge all winter. If I have time, I like to can some as well. Again, no washing until you’re ready to work them or eat them.
How much room you have and your own personal preference usually determines how you preserve your harvest. I freeze my fruits and peppers, after I wash and dry them. Cut the peppers into strips.
Berries or pepper strips then go on a cookie sheet, get covered in wax paper and popped in the freezer. When frozen, I fill quart size freezer bags, date them and put them back in the freezer. That way they don’t all clump together.
I do corn three ways. When I’m really busy, I just put three ears, complete with husk, right into gallon freezer bags and put them in the freezer. When I have a little more time, I blanch the shucked ears in boiling water for 3 minutes, pat them dry, cool and then cut the corn off the cob with an electric knife. I fill quart size freezer bags and freeze.
When I am in full canning mode for a weekend, I don’t blanch the corn. I cut it off, fill the jars, add salt and process however it says in the canning book. It depends on the size of your jars.
I use a small pair of scissors to snip the ends off my beans and cut out any spots. You have to string some bean varieties. Then, I wash them, fill jars and process according to the book. Always write a date on the jar lid or bag before storing.
I make pickles with my cucumbers, but I do my squash two different ways. Both yellow squash and zucchini gets washed, sliced and dried in the dehydrator. Then, I store it in airtight containers. I also grate zucchini, measure out 2 cups, and place in a storage bag to freeze. The bread recipe calls for 2 cups.
Now, we’re losing about a minute and a half of daylight every day this month, so make the most of your time. Summer will be over before you know it. Just keep an eye on the weather.
Every time it rains your zucchini will grow faster than Barnum & Baileys’ clowns making balloon animals. Happy growing.
Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.