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Years ago when our family started getting larger, we needed more refrigeration space so I purchased a small dorm type refrigerator without a freezer compartment. It was great for keeping soft drinks and other items cold. When not needed, I cut the temperature down low just to keep it running.
I soon discovered that with the temperature at 50-55 degrees F, this refrigerator was great for keeping potatoes, tomatoes, apples, blueberries, onions and even bananas longer. The banana skins do not turn black either.
I didn't realize how much difference it did make until I lent it to a friend for 3 weeks while he was having refrigeration problems.
Now when family comes home, I don't give up my small refrigerator for keeping extra food in. It's full of fruits and vegetables that taste much better when not kept at real cold temperatures.
When you don't have enough room for every veggie to have it's own container, you save a lot of space by sharing them. Trying to eat healthier and enjoy the bounties of summer veggies is a great idea, but with an older smaller fridge, it's tough.
Taking smaller amounts and bagging them, then sharing the containers not only keeps them fresh, but saves you room as well. Buying only clear containers also helps to know what is inside without popping the top.
You can even go so far as to put a write on/wipe off magnetized board on the fridge and a list of what is inside.
Source: Just having little space and a good solution.
Don't go on a vacation and leave potatoes and onions in the pantry. I must warn people to remove these before departing. I came back to a terrible smell in my house and it took me all morning to remove it. Nothing smells worse should they go bad before you get back.
Wash your vegetables and pat completely dry. Store your vegetables in a Ziploc bag. Add a couple of paper towels into the bag. That way the towel will absorb the moisture and keep your vegetables more crisp, fresh and last longer in the fridge.
To keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer, wrap them in newspaper before storing them in the fridge.
Some smaller vegetables can be stored in an empty egg carton to keep them separate from other vegetables. This is a guide about using egg crates for veggie storage.
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I love this group! I have a few questions. I'd like to feed a family of 4 and have some vegetables for canning/freezing in the off season. How many plants of each variety should I plant? Secondly, I know plants need fertilizer, but I'd like to use as natural and cost effective a method as possible. Does anyone have any "recipes"? Thanks so much.
Hardiness Zone: 9a
By tx from Conroe
It would be impossible for me to guess how much of each vegetable for you to plant because I have no idea how your family eats. One eggplant would be waaaay too much for us but we can easily use 12 tomato plants since I make lots of spaghetti sauce, chili, soup, and we eat gobs of them fresh. Always remember if you plant more than you can use there is sure to be a family (or older couple) near you who would love to use your excess.
I don't fertilize bacause we have cows and 'nough said about that!
The first thing you need to ask is what kinds of vegetables your family likes. What do you eat the most of? There's no point in having mountains of broccoli if no one eats it! Another thing to ask is how long the vegetables will take to mature. Carrots and lettuce for example come in quite quickly, while things like peppers have a long growing season. You can check online for expected yields for various plants. Some varieties too have better yields than others so it's worth it to do some homework before you go seed shopping.
A good trick to get the most out of your garden is to plant quick-growing crops in between ones that take longer to mature. You can often get a couple of harvests in before the main crop matures. By avoiding big patches of a single crop you can also confuse pests and help improve the soil. Look up companion planting for some ideas.
A compost heap is the best for natural fertilizer (and also cutting down on waste) but it's a long-term project. There's a lot of options available for fertilizers; I'd look up organic methods and see which ones seem most practical to you. I just try to avoid chemical ones. Good luck!
Ditto what Tapestry Lady said. You can buy organic compost until you make your own. I might start with raised beds---go to You Bet Your Garden.com for great information. Also, Organic Gardening Magazine. As for what to grow--zucchini is famously prolific. You can make canned zucchini pickles and freeze zucchini bread.
Contact me and I'll send you a picture and info on how I made my raised bed garden. Good luck. (kffrmw88 AT graceba.net)
Thanks for the replies. Wonderful suggestions.
I've been buying a lot of vegetables lately as the prices go down, some always seem to go to waste. When is it less expensive to preserve them yourself rather than buy them prepared? What is the best way to preserve them i.e. freezing, pickling, canning? Are there any good sites for this?
There are many ways to preserve vegetables. You can freeze, can, dry or pickle them. University web sites and state or county extension sites are a good resource for instructions. There are also many great books on food preservation.
Freezing is one of the best ways to preserve vegetables and keep them tasting as fresh tasting as possible. Here are two sites with good information on freezing.
Simple guidelines for freezing a variety of vegetables commonly grown in home gardens.
Virginia Cooperative Extension:
Information about blanching and freezing vegetables.
Vegetables can also be canned but this is only the best option when you don't have freezer space and you are buying large quantities of one kind of fruit or vegetable. If you choose to can them, make sure to follow canning instructions for each type of food.
Drying is another way to preserve vegetables. If you don't have a food dryer, food can be dried in a very low temperature oven or outside on drying screens. Here is a site with more information on food drying.
Michigan State University Extension:
Drying, general information.
When it comes to vegetables that cannot be preserved like lettuce and radishes, buy only what you can use within a few days. If you do need to throw out vegetables, make sure you throw them in a compost pile.
Two more things you can do with leftover veggies
besides canning freezing or drying: Put veggies of various kinds in a pot with some herbs & spices and water & boil. You will have veggie stock which you can freeze or can for later! Roast them first & the flavor is nicer!
If you eat meat, you can throw in some bones or
meat scraps. And don't throw out scraps of veggies; Compost them!
- Alekscat the frugal feline in Richmond, VA
Two more things you can do with leftover veggies besides canning freezing or drying: Put veggies of various kinds in a pot with somes herbs and spices with water and boil. You will have veggie stock which you can freeze or can for later! Roast them first & the flavor is nicer!
If you eat meat, you can throw in some bones or meat scraps. And don't throw out scraps of veggies; Compost them! - Alekscat the frugal feline in Richmond, VA
Some vegetables are pretty cheap year round because they store so well. In some cases, these vegetables are not worth buying in quantities that require you to preserve them. However, I still buy some of these, if the price is very low, and make them last for a week or more, because I have found it convenient to do things in batches. Other vegetables and fruits are quite expensive most of the year, and may well be worth the trouble to prepare and preserve for year-round use.
I've found a good way to extend the storage of radishes and turnips. I slice them very thinly, and then I cover them in either saved pickle juice, or a mix of vinegar and salt. I like to use red wine vinegar for this, because it produces an attractive pink color. I can keep them for a week or a little longer. I put this out with all meals until it is gone, and then I can make another batch. No, I can't give you an exact measurement for the salt, I just sprinkle it on each layer of radish or turnip as I fill the container. Store covered in the fridge. You can probably do this with other root vegetables and with cabbage.
You can keep eggplant a bit longer if you slice it thinly, sprinkle the slices with salt, and then drain away the excess liquid twice daily. After two or three days, chop it finely, add finely chopped onions, and use as a bread spread. I think a tiny bit of olive oil improves the flavor. It does turn brown, but it does not decay as quickly as it would just sitting there. And as a sandwich filling, it can be used up quickly -- don't we all love the convenience of sandwiches?
Cucumbers can also keep longer by a similar cold-pickling. I slice them somewhat thin, add some onions, and I make a salad dressing of pickle juice and mayonaise. Mix well, and store covered in the fridge. These were the first raw pickle I learned, and my children call them "not-yet pickles". (I wanted to make freezer pickles, didn't have a recipe, and didn't want to wait that long anyway to eat them.)
Lots of fruits and vegetables can be grated or chopped finely and added to breads, cakes, muffins, cookies or pancakes. An added benefit is that many recipes of this sort use less fats than the non-veg and fruit versions. For plenty of recipes, look for The Muffin Book, the Pancake Book, etc.
Some vegetables can be kept failry well by storing them in damp -- not wet -- sand. A good way to do this is to layer the sand and the vegetables in a five-gallon bucket. Carrots can be kept this way, if stored in a cool, dark place. If the sand is allowed to dry out completely, the carrots will become flexible and wrinkled. They can still be eaten, but you would want to cook them.
Other vegetables keep better in other ways, such as packed in sawdust, wrapped in newspapers, or hung up to dry. Green beans can be dried by stringing them on thread with a needle; later, you reconstitute them with lots of boiling, producing a dish called leather britches. Corn can also be dried and reconstituted. I learned a lot of these methods from the Fox Fire Books, and other records of folkways. Another book with useful information is How to Make Your Summer Garden Last all Year. (I'd give you more information, but my copy is currently on loan to a friend.)
Also, look for information about making sauerkraut and kimchee. Both of these preserve cabbage; one is a German method, the other is primarily Korean. - Rose B, mother of three, in NC
Do you take fresh vegetables out of the plastic baggies from the store before storing in refrigerator?
I don't. I know that things may last longer if they're kept out of the bag, since the bags can trap in moisture, but if something goes bad, I prefer that the mess be contained in the bag. Plus the drawer ends up with a bunch of little bits of broccoli and stuff in it. I do take fruit out of the bag in the fruit drawer though (shrug).