In the garden with Mr. Bee, Lou Boulmetis: Storing the harvest
Much of our surplus garden produce is given away to family and friends. But plenty is also stored for meals that will be prepared during the upcoming winter — because I really don't want to wait until next summer to savor the flavor of my favorite varieties.
Fortunately, many fruits and vegetables can be kept reasonably fresh for months, without going to the trouble of canning or drying. At our place, for instance, onions and garlic have been in storage for two months, and they will still be edible nine months from now. Other types of produce can easily be stored, too, providing that certain guidelines are adhered to. What follows should help.
• I only store perfect produce, never over-ripe produce or produce that's blemished, because it won't keep.
• I don't wash my keepers, either, until I'm ready to eat them. Washing produce prior to storing — such as apples, garlic and potatoes — increases the risk of it going bad sooner. On the other hand, I disinfect our storage containers before I use them, by washing the containers in a 10-percent, chlorine-bleach solution. Additionally, since the aromas and flavors of different produce types can combine, I don't store different produce types in close proximity to each other.
• A build-up of ethylene gas can shorten the shelf-life of items being stored. So when storing produce that emits ethylene gas — such as apples and tomatoes — I make certain the storage area is ventilated.
• I check the condition of our produce in storage on a weekly basis. Items showing early signs of spoilage are either immediately consumed or thrown away. I've also learned the ideal light, temperature and humidity requirements for the various types of produce hat we store. So depending upon what's being stored, I typically use a refrigerator, pantry, closet, crawl-space, garage or basement for storage.
Incidentally, while I was inspecting apple candidates for storage, I tossed a nice looking one to Judy. When men tossed apples to women in ancient Greece, it was meant as a marriage proposal, and catching the toss meant acceptance. Judy fumbled my toss. It's OK, though. We're already married.
This week in the garden
Brown patches within an otherwise green lawn can be caused by droughts, shallow soil, hot temperatures, diseases and insects. All of these problems can be solved, however, once they've been correctly diagnosed.