Gardening for Health

Time for an Autumn Harvest

By Maria Price

Crisp nights and cooler days herald our fall season. Now is the time to enjoy a family outing to a pumpkin patch and purchase colorful mums to decorate doorways. Most local nurseries and farms have pumpkins and chrysanthemums. If you have your own garden, there’s a lot more to do!

Evaluate what you grew and if you want to grow it again or what new things you’d like to try. If you have a vegetable garden, it’s time to harvest as much as you can before we get a frost.

Tomatoes can be cut up and cooked down to a thickened sauce. Put into freezer bags and label with the date and freeze flat so that many can be stacked in your freezer. Most veggies, like beans and greens, must be parboiled for 2 minutes, then quickly chilled with cold water and then put into freezer bags. It’s best to chop up greens before parboiling them.

Late summer brings a lot of okra to harvest daily. Okra can be put into gallon-size freezer bags without parboiling, which makes preserving them easy.

Peppers are another vegetable that can be put directly into freezer bags without any processing. Use them in the winter by cutting them up right out of the freezer and adding to soups and stews. If you don’t have a lot of room in your freezer, roast the peppers first. Lay them in a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Roast them in a 425-degree oven for about 12 minutes on each side. The peppers deflate and should be slightly brown. When cool, you can pull the seeds out and freeze in freezer bags.

Peppers can also be pickled easily. Use about 2 pounds of chili peppers, any variety, stemmed and sliced, or if small, leave whole. Pack the peppers into four clean, hot pint-size canning jars leaving ½ inch of space at the top. Combine 3 cups of distilled white vinegar, 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons sugar and bring it to a boil. Pour the hot brine over the peppers to cover by ¼ inch. Leave ¼ inch headspace to the lid. Refrigerate for up to three weeks or process using the boiling water method. Screw on jar lids and process for 15 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check the seals and store in a cool dark place. Harvest and preserve your veggies so you can enjoy your garden’s bounty in the winter.