Freezing Local Veggies: Spring Thaw Planning — Choosing Local Garden Vegetables

It seems I’m going to be lucky enough to have a garden this year. Might be moving out of this top-floor apartment to a place with a yard in the spring! That’s great news, because last year I found out just how easy it is to save some favourite local veggies for the winter.

Most of the summer, my partner and I can get our veggies from family members’ backyards.

At various times last season, a trip to my parents’ home meant Swiss chard, tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes. My mother also harvested crab apples from the front yard and made jelly with them. Sweet!

Visiting my grandparents in St. Charles yielded zucchini and rhubarb, amongst other things. Their cucumber crop is usually prolific, but it didn’t do well last year…

My sister sometimes brought over beets (with or without greens) and yellow beans. Marc’s cousin gave us a few spaghetti squashes, some cucumbers, zucchini, and corn.

La Grosse Carotte business card

If we can’t get it for free, we can buy it. At the Land of the Voyageurs Farmers’ Market, we got, most memorably, a few types of lettuce and kohlrabi from La Grosse Carotte, a vendor and natural products/gift shop.

Oakview Gardens Latour Vegetable Farm in Noëlville provided us with potatoes, cabbage, carrots, turnip, pumpkins, yellow beans, green beans, zucchini, and so much more, I can’t even remember. Pierre Latour has a lot of his homemade canning for sale, plus he sells fresh farm eggs as well.

Oak View Gardens business sign

From Dalew Farms in Lavigne, we bought broccoli, cauliflower, many different types of squash, garlic, melons, etc.

There are so many farms, gardens, and farmers’ markets in the French River – Nipissing area — and all over Ontario, really — we barely buy any veggies at the grocery store during the summer months and in the early autumn (and this winter, only some basics thanks to last fall’s bounty!).

Earlier in the season, it can be a bit easier shopping at Eat Local Sudbury, which gathers lots of local products in one convenient place.

Some veggies aren’t well known, like kohlrabi, or they have a bad reputation, like beets. Don’t know what something is while browsing the farmers’ market? Buy it anyway and look it up online when you get home — you won’t regret it.

You can sauté sliced kohlrabi in butter for an altogether different side dish. For a twist on beets, try roasting them with potatoes, turnips, and carrots (tossed in garlic and extra virgin olive oil). Most squashes and pumpkin can be roasted with garlic, too, to great effect!

In the fall, we buy lots of extra to last us through the winter. With a bit of planning, we can eat local veggies year-round!

Some local items are sold in grocery stores all year, like carrots, potatoes, and onions, so we don’t buy quite as much of those things to save space. We do store some, since produce around here is for the most part organic and whatever’s stocking the shelves at the Foodland usually isn’t, and if it is, it isn’t local.
Yellow beans ready to be steamed from frozen
Frozen yellow beans in a ziplock baggie.
  • Potatoes and onions: Store in a paper bag in a cool, dry place
  • Garlic: Store in a paper bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge
  • Pumpkin and squashes: Store in a cool, dry place and rotate on the shelf once a week to prevent mould occurring (the skin should be evenly exposed to air, so the same area of skin shouldn’t always touch the shelf); keep until about March; once cut up, freeze leftovers (no need to cook them, just prep them for the next use)
  • Carrots: Wash, peel, steam slightly, immediately immerse in cold water until cool, and store for freezing
  • Yellow and green beans: Same as carrots (frankly, almost anything can be frozen this way)
  • Zucchini: Wash and chop up ready for next use (grated for cakes, diced for stir-fries, chunky for grilling, etc.)
  • Tomatoes: Wash and freeze whole (slip off the skin once thawed or throw it all in the blender for sauce)
So now my challenge is deciding what to plant in my garden this year. I already know I want tomatoes so I can make my own tomato sauce and salsa for the year. I will plant peppers, definitely. Beets will yield the greens, too (smiley face). And green and yellow beans are supposedly easy to grow. I’ll throw in a pumpkin patch, but I’ll leave squash to the experts. I just might take a stab at asparagus.

Now, I don’t think I’ll be growing enough veggies to sell any, but it’s easy on the wallet. And the fewer expenditures, the less income needed, which translates into more time spent on doing things I like instead of working for someone else.

If you’re like me, you can’t wait for your food to start jumping out at your taste buds again. So what are you planting in your garden this year?


One Thought on “Freezing Local Veggies: Spring Thaw Planning

  1. Marie-Paule Dupuis:

    Great! Can’t wait for gardening season. Hint: To remove the skin from frozen tomatoes, dip them in hot water for a few seconds. The skin easily peels off. Use the tomatoes in soups, pasta sauce, chilis, swiss steak, or any recipe calling for can tomatoes.